Conspirituality and the ecological crisis

As anxiety about ecological crisis and the coronavirus spreads, we might expect defensive psychological formations to take hold on a large scale.

roiling watersThere is something hard to digest about conspirituality and its relationship to the climate crisis.They are both very large global ideas that take us into far territories of the mind and can overwhelm. I discovered the term “conspirituality” through CPA member Steve Thorp’s sending a link to the CPA message boards, linking to the podcast podcast has taken as its mission a weekly exploration of the increasingly volatile synthesis of conspiracy theory and new age spiritual practice.This synthesis has dramatically increased during lockdown, fuelled by factors we can all recognise: isolation, prolonged anxiety, a sudden rupture in social reality, a huge uptake in use of social media. It seems right also to mention the destablising effect on people’s psyche of the growing awareness of the severity of the ecological crisis.

The CPA Forum’s initial discussions involved a sharing of members’ experiences of friends and acquaintances drawn into anti-lockdown activity and conspiracy theory and the unnerving feeling that comes when encountering friends articulating these beliefs with such certainty. Members wondered if there may be a connection to early trauma, or to the adrenalin rush of discovering secrets, and noted how some friends had hurtled in a short space of time into becoming certain that the Earth is a battleground for alien forces, that a new world order is in control.

Some suggested that conspirituality might be a way for people to locate human agency as still an important factor in a world hurtling out of control.

Ivana Sharp wrote:

I think it provides containment for otherwise unbearable feelings. You mention how it feels highly unnerving to talk to someone with these beliefs. I agree and I wonder if that unnerving thing has always been there but hidden and now it’s become obvious. And if we are in some way asked to help to hold it. If the whole thing is a way of communicating something unspeakable. So when you ask how to speak to loved ones who are believers I would go for compassion. 

In the CPA we try to take into account not just the individual but broader cultural, social and ecological perspectives.From all these perspectives, this is an unnerving moment. What effect is this having on the psyche of our culture?

Q Anon and patterns in the clouds

Our discussions circled around Q Anon, which in a short time has gone right to the mainstream of US politics.A highly contemporary phenomenon, Q Anon is part digital cult, part live action game, part online community.It makes use of the human tendency to find meaningful patterns in unrelated things, a phenomenon known as apophenia.

Related to apophenia, the authors of the original paper that coined the phrase “conspirituality,” Ward and Voas, note that certain aspects of the new age spiritual movement lend themselves very well to accepting conspiracy theory; a) nothing happens by accident, b) nothing is as it seems, c) everything is connected. Yet these are also general tendencies within the human psyche, to seek meaning, to understand connections, and to seek to penetrate the surface of phenomena to seek patterns….

“Apophenia” and “conspirituality” seem like different ways of explaining similar things.Yet they also seem to point to different styles of consciousness.Whilst it seems reasonable to attack the problem at its root, criticising apophenia is difficult because the human tendency towards pattern finding seems so deeply embedded in what it is to be human. Conspiritualists may find patterns where there are none, yet this linking together of disparate seeming phenomena is also a part of creativity. Yet we need some critical discernment, if we are to distinguish sense from delusion.

The problem that I turned over as I thought about the threads was that in order to cut conspirituality off at the roots, I would need to deny the validity of intuitive pattern matching, and dismiss this as “apophenia” – just the stitching together of random things.Yet analytical, binary approaches also seem to be a big part of cultural polarisation….

…to read the rest of the article, follow the link below to the climate psychology alliance website: