Spiritual McCarthyism

Michael McAlister Blog 1 Comment

In a a recent post over at Intent Blog, Deepak Chopra writes about taking a vow of non-violence in his thinking, speaking and his actions in front of an audience of 500 people at a plenary session of The Alliance for a New Humanity.

I told them if they were ready to take this vow, they should stand up.

People stood up, one by one at first, then in groups of twos and threes, and finally in tidal waves, until more than 450 people had stood up and taken the vow.

Following this, everybody agreed to have at least two people in their lives take the vow. The two in turn, would have two others join them in taking the vow. Our immediate goal now is to get 100 Million people across the world to take this vow. In the meantime, we will be setting up ways to measure and support the dramatic effects this tidal wave of shift in consciousness is going to create.

While I have tremendous respect for Dr. Chopra and the work he does, I think he is walking a dangerous line here. Based on his words, he’s conflating his “vow” with “attachment”. And to make matters potentially disastrous, he’s collectivizing the attachment by asking others to stand and publicly make the same vow with him. This tactic usually leads to deeper suffering since the purity of its intention can so easily mask an attachment to an outcome. Of course the goal is a good one. Yet in situations like this, well-meaning but confused practitioners begin to cling to their vows and then turn them in to instruments of what may very well end up looking like Spiritual McCarthyism.

There is a way around this trap. Instead of encouraging people to metaphorically sign a loyalty oath, Dr. Chopra and the rest of us who teach should encourage our students to become deeply intimate with the violence in each and every aspect of life. We should encourage all beings to look carefully at the impulses that lead to violence in our speech, our thoughts, and our actions. Doing so allows us to make vows for peace rather than making vows against violence. Making a vow against anything gives birth to both fundamentalism and war.

Comments 1

  1. Ryan Wihera

    Your comments at the end of the post reminded me of the common paradox of people who end up becoming so intolerant of intolerance, or so hateful of hate, or are fighting so militantly for peace that they exhibit qualities of the very thing they are opposing.

    I’m not necessarily referring to Dr. Chopra’s statements, however it is interesting to observe how altruism or even “doing the right thing” can become a breeding ground for cognitive dissonance.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *