Pop spirituality: monism goes mainstream

I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if tens of millions of people suddenly started spouting nonsense. I fear something terrible has happened.

I could be wrong. I have no statistics. But in the past few years, suddenly I hear seemingly sensible people going about saying “ultimately, it’s all one, isn’t it?” and “when you find your true self, you find the whole universe,” and “all religions teach the same truth.”

Some think they are Christians, and seem unaware that these ideas directly contradict core principles of Christianity. Some think they are Buddhists, and believe these are Buddhist principles. They get indignant when I tell them that Buddhism says the opposite. Most are “spiritual but not religious,” or choose not to put themselves into any category.

They are in a category, however. These ideas are called monism. They are not new. Until recently, though, monism in the West was mainly confined to the New Age.

Monism seems to have broken the banks of that reservoir. It has spilled over into our cultural “thought soup” of taken-for-granted ways of understanding the world.

Monism is approaching pandemic prevalence. I think it is dangerously wrong, and it is time for a global vaccination campaign.

In the next several posts, I will describe:

  • What monism is
  • Where it came from
  • How it entered the mainstream
  • Why it entered the mainstream
  • What is right about it
  • What is wrong with it
  • Why people adopt it, even though it is obviously wrong
  • Why existing critiques of monism have failed
  • How explaining a better alternative stance, which incorporates what is right about monism, may succeed


You are reading a metablog post, dated November 5, 2010.

The next metablog post is Bad ideas from dead Germans.

The previous metablog post was “Ultimate”: use carefully.

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