The Pinchbeck Religion

Wow, this piece is cynical but still interesting. I’ve never been to a local Evolver movement gathering because as I’ve said, I’d make a crappy hippie. As much as I love Daniel Pinchbeck’s writing and his open outlook, some of the writing at Reality Sandwich is a shade too New Age-soaked and credulous. But this is a bit much:

They were the New Lost Generation, folks who’d fallen through the cracks of our crumbling empire and found this mystery cult with its promises of secret knowledge and chemical salvation. At its top stood lanky, sandy-haired Daniel Pinchbeck who years ago, was a New York literati and editor of Open City. He felt empty but ignored it until his friend overdosed on heroin. Pinchbeck fled to the Amazon to drink potions from shamans to cure himself of nihilism before he died like his friend. Those dizzy vomit soaked trips became his book Breaking Open the Head which made him a counter-culture guru. Now he hosts Evolver events, circled by mostly white, well-off audiences who look to him for meaning. And he gives it to them; shaman drug rituals, Mayan prophecies and a suspicion of reality that adds up to escapism. Our world is a wreck but Pinchbeck has them look outside of it for a truth that can heal it and the crazier that truth the better.

I’m sure there were authentic crazies at the gathering, but describing everyone with this outlook as “crazy” is a small-minded dead-end. These people are having some kind of experience and it can’t all be chalked up to schizophrenia.

This meeting might have a much different vibe in person – Pinchbeck may come off as messianic. But in writing, at least, he’s not a fundamentalist – certainly not like Farrakhan as the piece compares him. He’s done a lot of entheogens, seen there might be some other universe out there that we can’t see otherwise, and he’s not entirely sure what this signifies. He never claims to have all the answers – but he does claim to have a lot more questions that most are afraid to ask for fear of being labeled “Crazy,” as this piece does incessantly.

In short, don’t trust anyone who uses the term “tin foil hat” or “conspiracy theorist.” It’s nearly a racist term, grouping everyone together as equally stupid – which is ironic, given his sensitivity about the history of racism in this country. He says,

Ufology shares with the Nation of Islam a vision of hidden truths censored by invisible forces but at the mosque, it resonates with the real violence of our racist history. What did Ufologists lose that they search for it so fervently in the sky?

He goes on:

He just flows with Crazy, Pentagon conspiracies, men screaming in the mountain lab as aliens attacked or aliens fusing a human head on a cow’s body.

There are crazy people who believe in UFOs, but there are smart sober-minded people who do research into this phenomenon. In fact, it’s pretty crazy to write all of them off in this way. Something is happening beyond mere wish fulfillment, or desperation to believe in a new and provable God. If they’re crazy then Jacques Vallee is crazy, or the members of the military who have come forward, or the millions of people this phenomenon has affected.  Closing the door on a phenomenon before we fully understand it is dangerous:

We went outside, I borrowed a cigarette and we stood there blowing smoke.

“I think what you’re doing is dangerous,” I pointed at him. “You’re spreading false hope and escapism.”

“You keep using that word dangerous…”

“It is. We have real problems on the planet and telling people to do drugs or waste time searching for aliens is a distraction. I mean, look, I defend your freedom of speech but that doesn’t mean it’s worth saying. This isn’t real. Hunger is real. Poverty is real.”

He eyes searched for an escape, “These states of consciousness are real. I’ve experienced telekinesis, making things appear and disappear through alternate dimensions, telepathy…”

Personally, I’ve never experienced telepathy, but I do think it’s not outlandish to think that it’s possible. Granted, Pinchbeck could turn himself into a kind of priest who’s had visions of the “other side.” That could turn out to be dangerous – but automatically calling everybody who believes in this phenomenon capital-word Crazy is prejudiced in the extreme. There are more kinds of poverty than the lack of money. Intellectual poverty is also an epidemic.

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