We live in a day and age where anything can be capitalised upon. A byproduct of consumerist pleas means that any form of transaction, regardless of how straightforward it could be, can be taken and tripled. We only have to look at Instagram ‘personality’ Caroline Calloway to see how something as simple as posting long captions on social media turns into blog posts, which turns into efforts to nab book deals, into attempts to gain fame and wealth for seemingly anything. It’s become obvious that, especially in the past five years, spiritual ‘Healers’ and therapists are not exempt from this consumerist lens.
Log onto Instagram and within moments you come across users selling us products, retreats, podcasts, online circles and ‘check-ins’, many of them surpassing £150 for a 6-week experience. Frankly, I couldn’t care less what wealthy people spend their money on if they’re not spending it on warfare; if a middle-class white girl from North London spends her wages on a Yoni Egg and Yoga Retreat in Bali, who am I to stop her? It is the approach to these issues that strikes me as fundamentally wrong.
If we begin with the basics of Spirituality, Wxtchcraft, whatever term floats your boat, we know it stems from ancient practices of finding kinship with nature, alignment with a ‘higher self’ through mindfulness and focused body work (Paganism is a Western equivalent, but the majority of this work is Eastern-based). To many of us, there is a typical figure who comes to mind when we think about moon cycles, veganism and intuitive dancing; a woman in her 20s or 30s, not exclusively but often white, working in a big city in a very freelance sort of way. Whilst everyone is usually welcomed into spaces and communities such as these, it is a very different question of who is actually able to arrive. For many people, it is simply not a feasible way of life. For those with limited physical abilities, body focused work may be impossible, both in the literal physical sense as well as the emotionally draining act of analysing the body. Many LGBTQ+ people and/or those with gender dysphoria may find repetitive discussion of femininity, menstrual cycles and vaginas extremely difficult. In addition, it goes without saying that many people with penises or inability to bear children will feel utterly excluded. Finally, we consider the working classes. Those who are too busy to take an hour daily to do mindful yoga, or cannot afford the classes, tools or courses promised to allow them reach their ‘higher self’. For all of these people mentioned above, and many more, the capitalist community of spirituality is shut off for them; they are simply not granted access. Many of those who work in these areas will discuss their privilege candidly and seemingly in earnest; they are so grateful for their body that allows them to do these things, their financial ability to follow an intuitive urge to travel to a certain spot on the Eastern coasts. Some take well-natured attempts to move in the right direction, through completing tarot card readings in ways that offer messages to an all-encompassing cross section of society; think of the pentacles in the sense of emotional abundance as opposed to financially, consider how movement can mean many different things other than physical. Many even refuse to call ‘The Hanged Man’ by a gender, simply going by ‘The Hanged’. However, by large, much of the work done is simply not enough. It’s all good and well to talk about how healing comes from the soul, but only if you won’t follow it up by plugging your upcoming £400 Series of circles.
People have to work; this is a fact which is important to accept. The journey of the self is complicated in more ways than we can imagine, and I don’t deny that those who have trained in therapies and practicies are ideal to guide others (and I acknowledge that there must be a financial exchange for these services). Ultimately, my point is that the spiritual community desperately needs to come back to basics and address its inequalities. Those who work in the field should recall the fundamentals; calming the mind, appreciating what we have, utilising simple and straightward links to nature and relationships with one another to achieve a better quality of life.
These tools are vital to many of the people they being denied to, and it is high time those on social media who navigate these spaces, do so in a way that isn’t ignorant to many of the world’s problems; don’t tell womxn their feminine energy comes from blood between their legs, don’t assume your ability to tap into your intuition was only feasible after your sudden move from Nottingham to Melbourne, and don’t insist that the key to unlocking blocked energy in your heart is by thrashing around your bedroom to a remix of whale sounds and Groove Armada.
Spirituality is a simpler and purer practice than this. If this is what works for you and you like to share that, then fantastic; I love my tarot cards, and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t partial to a bedroom boogie to make me feel more connected to myself. But be mindful of your wording, and the meanings coming across; these methods are not the be all and end all. Putting a price on a form of new-age therapy is wrong; healing isn’t an instagram picture or crystals shaped to fit into certain body parts (you know which ones I’m talking about). If your route to mindfulness involves these things, then brilliant, but for many of us, it can be as straightforward as squeezing special moments into our day, or witnessing a sensation that enlightens us and brings us peace, without the need for purchasing material things.