The Black Lives Matter movement has highlighted, yet again, that we don't all have equal power in the world.
White people have been forced to confront our racism, our privilege and the ways we could 'do better'. We've been called to dismantle systems of racial oppression and inequality and to create the conditions for everyone's voice to be listened to and heard equally, for everyone's life to be seen and treated equally. Undoing hundreds and hundreds of years where this hasn't been the case.
I've seen lots of white people stepping up to do this work, including amplifying Black people's voices, buying from Black-owned businesses, challenging racism in their own minds, lives and workplaces.
But I've also seen lots of white people, particularly in the spiritual community, putting their fingers in their ears, tightly closing their eyes and continuing to chant "la la la, there are no differences, we are all 'one'.
Sorry, but this is frankly bullshit!
We are not all 'one'. Differences exist, even at soul level. We each have a different, unique blend of spiritual energy making up who we are as souls. This is why we have different character traits, different strengths and aptitudes, and different 'weaknesses' or challenges. The only 'one-ness' is the Creator, and none of us can be like Them.
When we are incarnated on the physical plane - as human beings - we are inescapably born into a socio-political context, into particular structures of social and economic power. We arrive here in a particular skin, a particular family, a particular location on Earth.
And, as we grow up, we are conditioned by the beliefs of the people and places around us. We perpetuate systems of oppression and privilege. There is no way that any of us escapes this!
Being 'human' doesn't make us all the same; not as long as we live in a profoundly unequal world.
And being 'spiritual' doesn't exclude us from being racist... or homo/bi/transphobic... or oppressive of disabled people... or classist... or having and abusing any other privilege.
Being 'spiritual' doesn't give us a 'higher' awareness' that somehow elevates us above social power structures. It doesn't give us a greater degree of love, acceptance and kindness, that prevents us from being discriminatory, abusive and violent in our thoughts, behaviours and words. Focusing on 'gratitude' and 'positivity' doesn't, by itself, change the world.
Because of this I've struggled with doing spiritual work in the past few months.
The split between the spiritual and political worlds, and the spiritual and political sides of my life and work, has seemed stark.
I've been asking myself:
- Should I be doing spiritual work, when there is political work to be done?
- Am I buying in to the whole 'we are one' spiritual crap, if I continue to talk about manifesting, Law of Attraction and all that stuff?
You may have seen this meme by Rise Up Good Witch:
It refers to the idea that we can effortlessly 'manifest' the things we want, by using our thoughts, feelings and spiritual power.
This practice, by itself, ignores the power structures we exist within and the fact that, as white people, we can use our race 'privilege' to hasten things towards us, particularly if we have other types of social privilege too.
But actually, while I totally get the point, I don't teach manifesting in that way. I have always taken a politically-grounded approach.
Manifesting in itself is not the problem, it's the wrapper of privilege it usually comes bound in.
In my Manifest in a Month course, I speak about how society puts constraints on us and tells us we can't have things, and how social oppressions make it more difficult for some of us to have things.
I also encourage participants to challenge this conditioning by reclaiming their personal power and building their self-belief... I encourage them to define their own vision of success and to find a role models, people who've come from a similar background to themselves and who have 'overcome the odds' to achieve.
I also know, however that I don't go far enough and that there is more I can do. I do still largely teach manifesting within the white privileged paradigm.
I don't do enough to challenge my own conditioning or highlight the privileged situations of some of my students. I nod along to Abraham Hicks, and I sometimes find myself uncritically repeating their words... I have not done enough to repackage the energetic process of manifesting within a more politically-informed wrapping.
But I'm working on it. I'm revising my manifesting course. I'm also currently writing a book about the process of 'making things happen' and will explore this further there.
It's not about holding guilt. It's about being willing to engage, learn, think, dissect, dismantle and start again.'Knowing better and doing better'.
I hope if you've read this far, you're on that path with me? Whoever we are, we can realise the power we hold over others. We can realise our privilege.
It is possible to do 'the spiritual and the political' together. In fact, it's essential.
We're not all 'one', but if we carry on, one day we might be.