Truth(?) In a Bottle

I was sick and overheated most of the weekend, but I could still deeply appreciate Lightning in a Bottle. The grounds were sprawling and magnificent. The stages were gorgeous and awe-inspiring art was everywhere. People were happy, friendly and beautiful.

Even the shopping, the “oh-so-insidious” presence of commerce — was inspiring. The food & clothing vendors were all examples of people & companies trying to practice conscious capitalism. Much more than mere money-centric traditional transactions, it actually felt good to purchase from a leather craftsperson or to buy an organic meal from a fair trade food truck.

And there was so much to learn, as well. So much yoga, cooking classes, workshops and lectures that it took significant effort to sort through the schedule. As impressed as I was with everything, there was one critical suggestion I wanted to make. (NOTE: This is a personal observation influenced by my own preference in learning formats. It could also just be sour grapes from my desire to speak at LiB and repeatedly rejected applications.)

An example of ONE stage on ONE day

I wish there was a little more context surrounding the more fringe workshops and lectures. Some of the subject matter was rather extreme, delving into the far-edges of spiritual and pseudo-scientific beliefs. I admire that LiB gives a venue to topics like Flat Earth and Alien Abduction, even if those ideas do not resonate with my current worldview. But I worry when these ideas are presented without criticism.

I imagined a young person in their early 20’s (as the majority of the crowd seemed to be.) I pictured them discovering LiB and how liberating the experience would be. How amazing to experience the deep community love and connection — perhaps for the first time. I pictured someone experiencing psychedelics for the first time and having their head cracked open. It would feel like they were finally experiencing what life is all about. Meeting people and experiencing art & music within the safe container of LiB would be a life changing gift. But I also pictured those young minds listening to a lecture filled with ideas that some would argue were conspiracy theories. Since the teacher on stage was vetted by and endorsed by the Do-Lab, critical thought and discernment would be turned way down within the safe container of LiB.

I am not saying that a cracked-open mind should not be exposed to alternative perspectives, only that it should be clear that they ARE alternative perspectives.To accept these ideas without critique could cause damage to a person’s psyche. And I wish the very concept of critical thinking was a bigger focus of the educational tracts. Alien abduction/brainwashing presented as truth is no less troublesome than Mormonism or Scientology presented as truth.

My Senior year of college, I got some wonderful advice from my advisor Fred Rabinowitz. He saw that I was becoming interested in Humanistic Psychology and was investigating some paranormal and alternative spirituality programs of study. He encouraged me to continue, but warned me that once you cross the line into counter-culture thinking, not everyone is to be trusted. There is powerful truth in the modalities yet to be embraced by the mainstream, but not everyone who is spreading “truth” outside the realm of science is doing so with clarity or good intentions. I watched one packed presentation of alien abduction, reptiles among us, chemtrail manipulation and DNA alteration. I found it disturbing and the speaker fascinating. But in the end it did not resonate fully with me. I am not denying the speaker’s experience. But with a world filled with hundreds of spiritual frameworks and countless gods, angels, demons and deities — it is clear to me that the limitations of a human mind requires us to use mythology and stories to make sense of the unknowable.

I have friends who talk to angels. I have friends who talk to Jesus. I have friends who talk to the spirits of plant medicines. I believe them all. And I question them all. I have no doubt their experiences are real. And deep confidence that our mental stories and sensory limitations shape the way we perceive reality.

Amazing work by Miles Toland by the Temple Stage

I became unsettled as I listened to the narrative of a sinister plot by aliens and illuminati. I am a 45 year old life-long seeker. I have read countless books and heard hundreds of hours of spiritual talks. I was grateful that I had such a strong foundation so that I could process the dark ideas without being overwhelmed. But I was worried about the young minds, naive and open. Like fertile petri dishes susceptible to any new idea that might take hold.

I do not mean to discourage alternate thought or breaking down the status quo worldview. Heck, my life purpose is about doing inquiry on our external scripts and questioning established realities. But the important compliment to that process is tuning in to one’s inner truth. One’s inner truth can be informed by alternate teachers and ideas, but it is not progress to go from blindly accepting a status quo idea to blindly accepting an alternative idea.

One of the huge errors of a beginner seeker is to make the mistake of “The enemy of my enemy is my friend.” If I tell you that US History is filled with lies and manipulation, that doesn’t mean that the next information that I tell you is true.

It is healthy to process all ideas through a filter of doubt…or at least a recognition of the source’s perspective. Truth is personal understanding, not a concrete absolute. At best, we have a temporary understanding of the currently accessible data. It can be soothing to hear a charismatic teacher define right and wrong with confidence. But the deepest danger of any belief is in unquestioning fanaticism.

Charles Eisenstein began his talk with the Maori quote: “There are no facts, only stories.” I wish every talk began that way.