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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

New Age Magazine: “Donald Trump – a Gift”



In January 2018 the Danish New Age magazine Nyt Aspekt, brought an article called Donald Trump – a Gift. The article is written by Serge Beddington-Behrens, a “transpersonal psychotherapist and shaman, who are teaching all over the world”. The article is reproduced from the English New Age magazine Kindred Spirit. I couldn´t find the English version and the following is based on the Danish version, as well as my translation of this into English. Eventual grammatical errors are therefore due to me. 


The article is an example of how evolutionism is a central part of New Age philosophy, and the absurd consequences of this. It needs to be emphasized that Beddington-Behrens probably not is a Trump supporter (though it might sound so). He begins his article like this:

The big question which USA needs to ask is: How is it, that a person who is self-righteous, racist, sexist, demagogical, one who constantly lies, a master in doubtful agreements, a person who refuses to make his tax accounting public - besides that he is without political knowledge and extremely superficial – how can it be that this man became president of the united states of America?

Beddington-Behrens then lines up some reasons we have heard before, such as Putin´s alleged interference in the election, and that Hillary Clinton didn´t listen to the white working class, etc, etc. But then he comes with a “deeper reason” which he claims not is so obvious. This reason has to do with what he calls “developmental balancing”. He then peppers this with information from the Chinese book of wisdom Tao Te Ching. So, what he wants to show is that Trump´s election has to do with the balance between yin and yang, or karmic balancing, as steps in some kind of developmental determinism. The subtitle to the article is:

“USA has begun its journey through ‘the dark night of the soul’. A developmental step, which is necessary both for a nation as well as for any human being. All split and anger now comes up in order to be faced so that new values consciously can be chosen.”

And later: 

“I will here argue for that it is transformational, when Donald Trump became president. With him at the rudder a deep split in the nation has become visible.”

Hereafter he goes further and begins criticizing the critics of Trump. First he introduces a hierarchy of “developed” people, by saying:

“You can say that Obama was elected by a more developed ‘light’ side of USA.”

Then he says that these “frontrunners” don´t fathom that the so-called “miserable” people [Trump voters] not are miserable at all. I quote:

 “They are simply younger brothers who seen from a developmental point of view not yet have released egoism or ethnocentrism. Many republicans (not all) belong to that category”.

And:

“I would like to emphasize that to be for something, not necessarily means that you should be against those, who don´t have the same opinion. That would be elitist.”

This is said by a man who a few lines above have introduced a hierarchy of higher and lower developed persons. Notice how contradictory it is, and how arrogant and condescending it is. It is a weird form of doublethink. He continues in that style:

“It is a question of development. We can not yet embrace what is not yet born in us. To criticize a human being on the reasons of its limited worldview is like blaming a five-year old child that it hasn´t got an adult´s responsibility.”

[…]:

“I again emphasize that it is them who are ahead [higher developed] who have the responsibility for showing the path instead of criticizing others for not looking at the world in the same way.”

And then he introduces the theme of the article:

“The gift, which Trump is to Americans, is a possibility for transformation – if they stop project their own shadow sides on him and recognize that some aspects of him also is in them.”

[…]

“This nation´s soul – the higher self of USA – is wonderful and I see a great role for USA in the future as a uniting and integrating power in the world. But first the country must clean its own house, and with Trump this possibility is present.”

The problem with New Age analyses like this is very simple: the concepts of karma, or yin and yang movements, belong to philosophy, and not history. You can talk universally about karma, but not concrete. If you talk concrete about karma, you end up in misjudgement and absurdity. We have many times seen how religious people do this, for example that a concrete catastrophe is due to God´s anger etc. Or you can use religious concepts to justify terror, etc.

Let´s look at the philosophical background for Beddington-Behrens´s analysis. First of all: his analysis builds on evolutionism. He might not be completely aware of this himself, since this ideology seems complete natural for most Westerners. But you can read it out of his analysis. Evolutionism was created in the 19th century, but the background is to be found in the Renaissance, not least in the scientific breakthrough from approximately 1550 onwards.

It is an ideology which we still celebrate in the Western world. We find it natural to talk about progress, development, growth, renewal, innovation, visions, whether it's economic, political, social conditions, spiritual - and also when it comes to art. It is a linear view of history where it is about being constantly progressive, revolutionary, dynamic, unconventional, without rest, without end. Evolutionism is so close-knitted in our minds that we find it very difficult to imagine that it could be different.

But evolutionism is a newer Western phenomenon. In the rest of the world, it did not exist before the Europeans. All pre-modern societies had a cyclic view of history. In the society of today it is stated in all areas that we must move on, develop ourselves, renew ourselves and the institutions, companies, develop trade, exports, imports. In the cyclic societies concepts such as gods, providence and destiny were central. But such concepts have long been replaced (or mixed) with ideas of growth and progress. In business, innovation and expansion have become key words. Evolutionism has gone so much into the blood that it also characterizes our view of spirituality.

But evolutionism makes us blind for a number of relationships, as for example down-cycles, the shadow side of life, negative consequences, and most important: the wisdom of the past. I consider evolutionism to be the beginning of a long period of human decline.

Evolutionism is best known in the field of biology, where it, with the research of Charles Darwin, gained a scientific footing. But also in the field of history it became popular in the reductionism called historicism, a central idea in New Age.  Historicism is the belief that historical, and by extension, present and future, events unfold according to predetermined sequences. It is found in many Western belief systems, for example in the 19th and some early 20th century anthropology and archaeology (generally referred to as "cultural evolutionism") - societies evolve through time on a single path from small bands of hunter-gatherers to nation-states resembling those of 19th century Europe — and no further.

You can also see it in certain formulations of biological determinism applied to historical processes, e.g. racialist theories that posited the achievements of European civilization were due to biological superiority. These ideas were often tied into the anthropological theories above.

Then there is the Hegelian dialectics - every development in history (thesis) would lead to a reaction (antithesis). The contrast between both will lead to a reconciliation or otherwise be settled (synthesis), which would eventually become a new thesis, etc. This view had a great influence on Marxism - civilization goes through several stages, from primitive communism, through the rise of the state and private property, to feudalism, capitalism, socialism and finally to communism.

You can find it in dispensationalism - a fundamentalist Protestant Christian belief in seven periods of time or "dispensations" the earth will go through; according to this belief we are currently in the "dispensation of grace" and will be until the rapture happens.

Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West, arguably an intellectual influence on Nazism, claimed a civilization model in which each civilization necessarily passes through several epochs and eventually declines.

Auguste Comte's positivism - in his famous Law of the Three Stages Comte postulated that all human societies would pass through three stages: the religious stage, the metaphysical stage and the positive stage. He believed his own philosophy kicked off the third stage (a common trait of historicists are egoes that seem to follow their grand fantasies).

It should be easy to see how all this has influenced the New Age movement, where the concept of historical stages has been applied to consciousness, and the coming New World Order – the New Age. You can for example see this in the New Age guru Ken Wilber´s works.

Beddington-Behrens admittedly talk about the shadow side, and the wisdom of the past, but with the evolutionist´s point of view (positive thinking). So, in New Age, universal concepts like karma is reduced to concrete history. This is a distortion of Eastern philosophy, which results in serious problems. I will line up three arguments against it:

1)

First of all, historical determinism and historicism were decisively rebutted by Karl Popper, who argued that it is impossible to predict the future course of history. His argument goes like this:

1)  The biggest historical changes in recent history have for the most part been caused by technological changes. If you could get somebody who lived a hundred years ago to time travel to the present the most striking differences would probably be technological ones, and even if that is not the case many of the social, cultural and political changes can at least in part be ascribed to changes in technology.

2)  Technological progress depends heavily on scientific progress.

3)  Therefore, in order to predict the future, one should be able to predict future scientific knowledge.

4)  It is, however, not possible to predict future scientific knowledge. You can't predict a scientific fact that has not been discovered yet. If you could, it would not be a future discovery but a current one. In other words, if you know a fact that is not yet known, you know it now, so it's not a prediction any more. Knowing things you don't know yet is an impossible logical contradiction.

5)  Therefore, it is not possible to predict the future course of history.

2)

Secondly, the viewpoint can be reduced to absurdity. If it is true that Trump is a gift, then this is a justification of him, and everything he stands for and does. It is an argument which can justify anything from psychopaths to mass murderers and terrorists.

3)

Third, the argument involves a thought distortion called Correlation = Cause confusion. In connection with the article this has to do with that you reduce something universal (karma philosophy) to something concrete (history). Correlation = Cause confusion is the mistake of treating a correlation as conclusive evidence of a direct causal connection. Two sorts of event may be correlated (that is, whenever one is found, the other is usually found) without there being a direct causal connection between them. Just because two things tend to be found together (Trump and the rise of awareness), it doesn´t follow that one of them causes the other. Nevertheless many people act as if any correlations provides proof of a direct causal link. But such correlations may result from a common cause of the two events, from mere coincidence, or it may provide just as much evidence for an alternative hypothesis as it does for the one which is alleged to follow from it.

Let me end with three alternative hypotheses, which paradoxically enough show that theories like Beddington-Behrens´s, themselves might, despite what he himself believes, play a central part in the election of Trump. Such theories therefore not at all belong to any higher developed elite. Moreover, USA is not seen as a future uniting and integrating power, and the fact that people actually see USA as a world teacher, makes the future look very dark.

Alternative hypothesis 1:

Fantasyland - How America Went Haywire: A 500-year History, is a book by Kurt Andersen. It is an alternative explanation of how Donald Trump became president. The relevance is its focus on the rise of relativism and subjectivism, and the conscious attempt of blurring the line between illusion and reality. An interesting aspect is that Andersen, like me, sees how relativism and subjectivism are embraced by both the right and left.  It also explains how Americans combine spirituality/philosophy/politics with pop culture and Hollywood (for example the "truth" of Hollywood movies like The Matrix). See my article The Confabulation of Trump and the update Donald Trump.

Alternative hypothesis 2:

The Closing of the American Mind - How Higher Education has Failed Education and Impoverished the Souls of Today´s Students, is a book by Allan Bloom. Bloom explains this by showing the rise of nihilism and the embracement of Nietzsche. In the Matrix Conspiracy, I describe Nietzsche as the Sophist King over all Matrix Sophists. See my article The Matrix Conspiracy Fascism.

Alternative hypothesis 3:

The Age of American Unreason in a Culture of Lies, by Susan Jacoby. The history about how Americans today have embraced "junk thought" that makes almost no effort to separate fact from opinion. In my Ebook Evolutionism - The Red Thread in the Matrix Conspiracy, I explain this by showing how the rise of the Sophists are happening in America, and therefore are spreading to the rest of the world.

Update!

One year later, in the January 2019 issue of the same magazine (Nyt Aspekt) you can find an article which seems to be cut out of the same formula like that of Beddington-Behrens´s. It is called Egoism – Yes, please! and is written by the editor of the magazine, Steen Landsby. It has three subtitles:

To see order in chaos

To see love in egoism

To see development in everything

The article begins with an affirmation of different negative sides of egoism. Hereafter is lined up a series of positive human achievements, which without evidence are claimed to be direct results of egoism. The word development is used again and again. The article even has its own theory of historical epochs: the agricultural revolution, the communication revolution, and then a revolution which the article believes we are in right now, a cleansing revolution: the moral revolution!

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