Sunday, April 4, 2021

QAnon and the New Age.

You would think a person who purports to dislike DC so much would have raced to eliminate all ties to the city (other than those to friends and relatives) immediately upon moving away, wouldn't you? And yet I still have a digital subscription to the Washington Post, and probably will keep it for the forseeable future. It's not super expensive (I'm looking at you, NewYork Times) and their coverage of national news is excellent.

Sometimes, however, they kind of go off the deep end. So for the second time in as many weeks, I'm using a WaPo story as a springboard for a blog post. (I'll get around to writing about writing again eventually, I promise.)

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This week, an article in their Sunday magazine set me off. It's entitled "QAnon's Unexpected Roots in New Age Spirituality," and in it, the author strives to make a connection between the New Age movement and the guy in the furry headdress who stormed the U.S. Capitol on January 6th. I'd read a little bit about this character, whose real name is Jacob Anthony Chansley but who goes by Jake Angeli and who is also known as the "QAnon Shaman." I'm sure you've heard about him, too; he's the guy who complained that his jailers wouldn't serve him organic food, so a judge ordered him transferred to a different jail.

The get-up he wore to the insurrection was a mishmash of quasi-spirituality: the horned headdress was a call to Native Americans, sorta kinda, and among the tattoos on his torso is a rune associated with white supremacy that Heathens in the Pagan movement have disavowed. The author of the WaPo article, Marisa Meltzer, says she recognized the combo as a "cringeworthy and offensive display of appropriation." I agree with her. She goes on to say that Chansley is the founder of the Star Seed Academy, a New-Agey place in Arizona that promises to help people "awaken, evolve and ascend!" His lawyer told Meltzer that Chansley is committed to ahimsa, a principle in some Asian spiritual traditions that relates to nonviolence.

When I read that, I said aloud, "Then what the hell was he doing in the Capitol on 1/6?" 

Well, he's also a follower of QAnon. And Meltzer says that fits because of this thing called conspirituality, which she describes as a "politico-spiritual philosophy" based on two beliefs: that humanity is undergoing a profound awakening in consciousness, and that there's a shadowy group out there somewhere that's controlling society.

She says Robert Bly's 1990 book, Iron John, is one of the seeds of conspirituality. Bly's book created a counter to the women's movement by highlighting masculine tropes in Jungian archetypes and fairy tales. In order for men to claim their true masculinity, he claimed, they needed both to perceive themselves as warriors and to make themselves emotionally vulnerable. 

I remember when Iron John was published. It sold really well. And there's nothing wrong with a man being emotionally vulnerable in his relationships; it kind of helps, actually. 

But then Meltzer tries to tie this view of masculinity to those held by groups like the Proud Boys and evangelical Christianity, where the ideal of men as women's protectors morphs into a belief that women should stay home and shut up. From there, it's a short hop to QAnon. 

Okay, but QAnon attracts a lot of women, too. And whatever happened to Bly's belief that men need to be emotionally vulnerable?

Look, there are some shady New Age characters out there. In my opinion, the New Age movement is less a religion than a self-help phenomenon; misappropriating Native American practices is just one of the sketchy things I've seen. I'm not against self-actualization, but you have to be really, really careful when you search for a "guru"; a fair number of them are only in it to separate you from your money.

And I'm thinking the QAnon Shaman might need to spend some of his time in prison reading Iron John


These moments of appropriate blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Mask up! Wash your hands! And get the vaccine when you can!

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