Anatomy of Delusion: How Otherwise Conscious People Descended into the Darkness

Note: The purpose of this article is not to speak to those who are spreading Bill Gates-is-the-Antichrist or the coronavirus-is-a-hoax memes. If you’re deep in the conspiratorial worldview, I’m not going to present evidence to dissuade you of your opinions here. I’m going to present some perspectives that can help those of us who are not following you down that path to understand what is happening. It’s probably best for you not to read this.

So my real audience is well-intended people who are doing our best to keep our loosely-defined human potential movement on an evolutionary path forward to be of greater service to humankind.

If you’re like many of my friends, colleagues and allies, you’ve been baffled by the number of otherwise conscious people who have begun spouting extreme conspiracy memes, joining the anti-mask rebellion, or attacking people for the sin of watching CNN.

“I thought I knew these people?” you might think. “How in the world did that person go from promoting detox regimens to calling the worst pandemic of our lives a hoax?”

You might find yourself unfriending people on Facebook and writing off people you once respected. It’s frankly been painful.

Underneath any outrage on the surface, you may feel a deep dismay and, if you’re honest, a bit of genuine questioning of what it is in our collective movement that made such a large percentage of people susceptible to this descent into rather extreme positions, what some are calling “conspirituality” as the confluence of extreme conspiracy ideas and spirituality.

When we share facts with these folks, we are often dismissed as simply parroting the “discredited mainstream narrative.” We have not yet “woken up” to the reality that there is a small cabal of people who are orchestrating virtually everything in the service of our enslavement.

What I want to do here is show, from my perspective and with as much compassion as I can muster, the weaknesses that this pandemic has exposed in our emergent “new paradigm” worldview — which I do believe has many important upgrades — that is feeding this collective phenomenon.

At the deepest level, we are each participating in an upgrade to the human cultural operating system to a worldview that is holistic, sacred, inclusive, global, and expresses in a more peaceful and sustainable lifestyle. But this collective crisis has revealed serious design flaws that are corrupting that code and need to be addressed with patches or fixes in some fashion so that the new worldview actually is a sustainable and healthy upgrade.

This is not a problem with THEM (the conspiracy folks) but about systemic weaknesses in our emerging worldview, which most of us have participated in co-creating or perpetuating.

Our fellow movement members who have gone down to the bottom of the rabbit hole are basically revealing the problems that need to be addressed for our new worldview to actually be an enduring, solid upgrade for our world.

In fact, I would go so far as to say that we cannot solve our collective crises WITHOUT this upgrade happening and what we now have to face is that the code-base we thought was DONE is actually riddled with flaws. Those flaws in the design and promulgation of that worldview are contributing to many of our beloved once-allies going off the rails.

This is similar to shifting from seeing racism as a problem of stopping a small percentage of “bad people” to understand our participation and collusion in systemic racism.

Basically, if we’ve been on a path of personal growth, going to yoga classes, conscious music festivals, or spiritual retreats, and exploring greener, healthier, holistic lifestyles we have likely been subtly colluding in some deeper worldview problems that this crisis is bringing to the foreground.

As the CEO of a large company in the space, The Shift Network, I include myself in this. How have I been colluding in aspects of the problems in the “new paradigm” worldview that are now manifesting in people going into a land beyond reason?

That excavation requires more rigor than simply writing off people as delusional weirdos. But I think we can’t actually accomplish a solid upgrade of our culture without doing it.

The first Worldview Weakness that the conspirituality movement (as I’ll refer to it for shorthand) is revealing is the over-privileging of the individual over the collective.

Most of the messages and teachings in our movement lead people to take more and more responsibility for the quality of their lives, their beliefs, and their choices but there is often far too little focus on any sort of sacrificing or deferring to the good of family, tribe, or nation. It becomes an atomistic and self-absorbed movement, with individuals “flowing their flow” and maximizing their bliss but often paying far less attention to their community and civic responsibilities. It’s groovy and fun but ultimately not reflective of a higher level of morality.

To illustrate this, let’s look at what we call the “Flow Boy phenomenon.” The Flow Boy is often exceptionally good at dancing, romancing, and wandering the world. They often do so well into their fifties. They eschew commitments, often champion polyamory and economically don’t tend to build much of enduring value. They pride themselves on how conscious they are but when it comes to employment, family, or institutional or civic responsibilities, they are basically evasive. Their freedom is defined by their ability to follow the impulse of the moment. The dance and festival scene is filled with folks like this and there’s a great lament among spiritual women that there simply aren’t enough solid, reliable men to go around.

Which is true.

This Worldview Weakness emerges from the confluence of two things: denial of virtues often associated with the masculine (for example, commitment becomes a dirty word rather than a badge of honor) and a heavy focus on individual pleasure/freedom over any societal obligations to others.

So what happens when a global pandemic comes along that demands the ability to constrain movement, activities, and socializing in the service of protecting the most vulnerable and slowing the spread? The Flow Boy blows it off, calls it a hoax, dabbles in conspiracy memes, dismisses the “control” of the mainstream or generally just keeps doing what he wants. And, in doing so, he contributes to endangering many lives.

He may become more interested in far-right ideologies (which are typically sourced from traditional worldviews that chafe against modernist institutions). He might become intensely suspicious of any mandates of the state. Because he doesn’t embrace self-control much less self-sacrifice for the greater good, he starts to spout right-wing talking points that reinforce his distaste for masks, social distancing, or anything that impedes his bliss. He is addicted to his freedom to do what he wants, even when that involves hurting others. It’s really about taking spiritual concepts and applying them in an immature, self-serving way.

This Worldview Weakness is not limited to guys but I use the Flow Boy image since I think people get it more easily.

A true upgrade to the “new paradigm” worldview requires that we honor traditional virtues like sacrificing for the community; keep responsibility, commitment and service as key values; balance individual good with the collective good; and see real freedom as happening WITHIN our commitments rather than outside of them.

The second Worldview Weakness that the conspirituality movement reveals is the tendency to deny the validity of other points of view (even ones that are rigorously acquired) and over-privilege our own (even when it flows from just feeling a certain way). There is an over-equalizing of opinion (“What makes your opinion better than mine?) and an undermining of respect for expertise.

Again, there are positive aspects of this as often people have often grown up in more repressive environments and the claiming of one’s sovereignty and knowing is important, but there’s a tendency to start dismissing everything “mainstream” or “expert” as untrustworthy.

For example, one person I was challenging on something accused me of “watching CNN” as if that would be taken by me as an insult rather than a reflection of their own insularity and arrogance that they know better than ALL the experts CNN might feature.

The good aspect of claiming our own internal truth and authority — which human potential teachings typically promote —turns ugly and becomes a descent into ignorance when people stop respecting the hard-earned disciplines behind so many mainstream endeavors from science to journalism to medicine. Once we stop respecting expertise and the disciplines that inform that expertise, we put ourselves on a path to ignorance.

It’s easier — but far less intelligent — to make the blanket statement that you can’t trust mainstream media and then only trust what your “woke” friends forward you on Youtube. It may make someone feel stronger to condemn all mainstream medicine as a tool of Big Pharma, but it’s actually not intelligent.

This Worldview Weakness is reinforced by far too many teachers, including some that we have featured on The Shift Network, which is hard to admit.

Unlike more conventional researchers within a university setting who are rewarded for staying close to data, always being open to revision, and being part of a community of critique and accountability, bestselling authors in the “new paradigm” arena are rewarded for two things that can become problematic: expanding the explanatory power of their insights to realms in which it may or may not be applicable and delivering their insights with surety that they are absolutely right. Both qualities lead to bigger sales and more followers.

While these teachers often have real credentials from the mainstream, they have made the leap into the “new paradigm” arenas where they can now trumpet their “revolutionary” ideas with great surety they are right and then apply their ideas far and wide.

I think of Zach Bush, for instance, who has made the rounds of our community and is a compelling, charismatic speaker with some genuine insights about the gut biome that should be heard but are overextended beyond his zone of expertise and delivered with a rock-solid surety that makes other people assume he must be right.

Dig a little bit and it’s easy to see he misrepresents a lot of the research he cites and he really is not someone we should be turning to for advice on how best to deal with the coronavirus, for instance.

Real scientists are always open to being wrong. Real scientists know the current hypothesis is only as good as the next batch of data. Real scientists are careful.

Popular authors are selling their credibility as scientists but have a clear financial incentive to present their insights as more comprehensive, global and definitive than they are. They may be wonderful people but they aren’t held accountable by a rigorous scientific community or peer review process.

The end result of all this in terms of Worldview Weakness is that the “new paradigm” becomes effectively scientifically illiterate in terms of the process of how we discern truth AND overly reliant on a handful of former insider scientific teachers who people listen to without any real critical thinking.

Put differently, our community begins to relate to a handful of “trusted” science-y leaders because they are “one of us” and fail to see that while they do have a background in science (and are often very intelligent), they mostly aren’t doing science anymore but simply selling books and workshops.

Normally, this might not seem like a big deal but when these sort-of-scientific-teachers declare that we shouldn’t worry about coronavirus and just focus on the health of the “terrain” in our body — as Zach Bush has, for instance — it is taken as a kind of gospel truth and New Age followers then dismiss ALL the mainstream research that contradicts that over-generalized and wrong-headed statement.

Show these folks a meta-analysis of 172 studies showing face masks are effective and even essential to beating this pandemic?

Crickets.

But if Bush says something in a flowery and poetic way that mirrors pre-conceived beliefs, then he MUST be right. Because we WANT him to be right vs. some boring, bug-eyed dude in a lab who is obviously not as cool and conscious as me.

Or so the thinking goes.

The entire scientific enterprise is built on the recognition that everyone is fallible and that we are constantly having to revise and upgrade our ideas about the world. We all have biases and blindspots and the scientific method is a good workaround for them, especially over time.

A sciencey-sounding “new paradigm” speaker who proclaims THE truth is so much easier to get behind because they sound so sure and they don’t challenge any aspect of our “new paradigm” worldview.

So, without integrating the deep wisdom and rigorous practice of science — and extending it to study all the realms we are interested in from meditation to intuitive abilities to mystical experiences to plant medicine to healing— we end up closer to scientifically illiterate as a movement, which is a recipe for propagating a lot of dumb ideas and ungrounded perspectives that can be dangerous in a pandemic.

A conspirituality worldview that harbors deep suspicion or even antipathy towards any knowledge generated by mainstream science simply can’t be an upgrade for humanity.

This is evident in the anti-mask movement, which is forming as an alliance between the far-right and the New Age left, who together simply dismiss anything from mainstream science as either Big Pharma propaganda or a product of the “dominant narrative,” implying that science itself has no validity but is essentially an attempt of big companies and evildoers to exert control of others.

The other aspect of this increased suspicion and dismissal of anything “mainstream” that might challenge the primacy of “our” worldview is the over-reliance on networks of trusted friends to forward the “real” truth, a belief easily exploited by those who aim to undermine and exploit this weakness.

If our friend shares something on Facebook, we tend to trust it more because we extrapolate our trust of them to the trust of what they share. Which actually allows all manner of poorly-researched conspiracy nonsense like Plandemic (which has been convincingly debunked) to make the rounds because it was shared by “trusted” friends who are supposedly not corrupted by the mainstream.

The point of science is to take us beyond our all-too-human biases that can be reinforced by insider-networks in which bad ideas become shared truths.

And yes, it is of course true that there are many things that mainstream scientists are afraid to study because they think they will be ostracized by colleagues or cut off in their funding. It can be risky to go outside the window of acceptable research into terrain that is considered fringe. And yes, it is also true that major media caters to major pharmaceutical perspectives because of the ad dollars. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t trust a meta-analysis of 172 studies on mask efficacy. It’s not a binary kind of trust, it’s about seeing what science is already excellent at and where it’s afraid to go.

The third Worldview Weakness illumined by our current state of things is what I think of as “esoteric knowledge ego inflation.”

When someone devotes themselves to a transformational path, it DOES mean going beyond a lot of the perspectives we’ve inherited. It means going into the desert, digging deep in our souls, working on ourselves, and looking at our blind spots. This can be a humbling process and, most relevantly, it often isn’t reflected in moving up the status ladder of society.

For example, a conservative family from Topeka has a son who goes off to college, takes psychedelics, starts meditating and wants to spend a year in India. He starts going to festivals and talks about embodying his truth. He challenges his family’s ideology. He gets into books and teachers that are, for the Topeka family, profoundly strange. He may live a more rootless life compared to what his family wished for him.

And so the family expresses its disapproval in overt and covert ways, making that son feel dishonored.

Now that isn’t everyone, of course, and most people in the “new paradigm” do find their way to gainful employment, solid family life and a role as productive citizens. But there’s typically a period of soul-searching that takes the form of moving down the social status hierarchy in terms of our conventional standing. For me, that took the form of a lot of meditation retreats, global travel, and working at jobs that weren’t reflective of the usual Stanford grad’s pay grade. I was probably 40 before I had a positive net worth but I gained a ton of knowledge in that period.

Because people exploring the “new paradigm” are pioneers to a large extent, it can take some time to get to a place of conventional success because our society tends to reward people most easily who remain within the conventional status achievement framework. Working for Goldman Sachs moves you up the societal ladder faster than a massage practice.

Family and friends may think less of someone on a holistic path in a lower light as a result.

Now this doesn’t have to be a problem but there’s a little trick that the ego does when other people look down on you: it finds a way to feel superior to those looking down on you.

In our space, that takes the form of being “holier than thou,” “more evolved,” and therefore more “right” in all things. In other words it leads to arrogance about knowing better than those mainstream folks who have looked down on us, which can subtly slide further into taking the contrarian position on things. They are SO inferior that what they say is precisely the opposite of truth.

Mainstream says the materialism is good? I’m going to lead a more spiritual life without any possessions.

Mainstream says it’s better to have a steady job? I’m more enlightened so I follow the universe and trust the money will manifest.

Mainstream says to go to your doctor for check ups? I’m going to treat EVERY illness with my mind and with alternative holistic therapies.

Basically, this ego trick bolsters our sense of self-worth in the face of mainstream marginalization by inflating our sense of knowing and often leading us to claim the OPPOSITE of the mainstream worldview as the truth.

While this contrarian perspective might lead to some interesting experiments in living, what it doesn’t lead to is a higher level of integrated wisdom for life.

And that’s because there are thousands of years of valuable insights embedded in the mainstream worldview: what works for families, businesses, democracies. If we inflate the importance of the new elements we’re championing while denigrating the old or saying it is exactly wrong, we’re engaged in rebellion, not evolution.

Tinkering with changes to the current worldview needs to be paired with respect for understanding where the current worldview is already working well.

As an example, I had to make a pivot in relationship to modern medicine. For two decades, I basically stopped going to a doctor at all even though I was once a pre-med student.

And, at the end of the day, modern medicine was what led us to birth our beautiful daughter Sienna. We had to re-accept the wisdom and knowledge embedded in allopathic medical care and fertility research in order to receive one of the greatest blessings of our life.

For us to collectively evolve to the next level, we need to INTEGRATE the best of the old and build upon it, not reject it all and claim the opposite.

The conspiracy folks are often stuck in the tendency to reject virtually anything that can be called mainstream as a way to subtly bolster their sense of worth. Which makes them prey to ungrounded ideas that bolster their sense of having privileged, esoteric, secret insights into the “real” nature of things.

By getting to feel “awake” and look down on all those folks who are still “asleep,” there’s an avoidance from the pain of feeling like one has lower status or respect. I particularly see this with people who are committed to a holistic lifestyle but have trouble finding a steady source of income. Feeling like they are awake and others are asleep allows them to deflect those undesirable feelings and feel superior again.

That’s part of why the conspirituality perspective can be difficult to dislodge with facts, because it is feeding and protecting deeper needs that have to be addressed in some other fashion. The egoic pride/inflation that comes from “truly seeing” what is going on becomes a kind of defense system around feelings of unworthiness.

The ultimate solution for this Worldview Weakness requires deeper inclusion of the wisdom in mainstream knowledge but it also means finding ways to heal feelings of unworthiness or rejection that are often underneath the triumphant “I know the REAL truth” attitude.

The fourth Worldview Weakness is what we can think of as the Love and Light imbalance. This shows up in people who have always been ultra-positive and focused on the good in humanity and the blessing in every tragedy and then suddenly they are talking about the dark cabal that is working to deceive and enslave us.

The core attachment/imbalance here is to seeing the world as an ever-unfolding journey of more light, love, and spiritual potential. This attachment leads people to want to turn off the news (too toxic), avoid hard-hitting subjects like racism and generally only see the best in people.

In normal circumstances, creating a more sanitized bubble can work. This type of person might gravitate to a lush tropical island rather than a city, always seeking a Utopia in which to avoid the harsher realities of a world that has been built on quite a bit of oppression, deception, and degradation.

The full story is that humans are divine AND disgusting at times, nobly creative and terribly exploitative, honorable and criminal, wonderful and beastly. I suspect that the souls of even our brightest lights in history have had their sojourns in the most despicable shadows of this world.

Evolution is messy, complex, and sometimes degrading.

The creation of a sanitized, overly rosy spirituality (and yes, I have at times played my role in this) creates a bubble of positivity that feels more reassuring than having to face the horrors.

But what happens when a collective tragedy unfolds like the pandemic? This bubble world of a loftier, rosier view of humanity is popped in the face of disease, poverty, protest, economic breakdowns, anger, and unrest.

Rather than question the Love and Light part of the operating code, people will then simply make a little bit more space in the worldview for a small group of individuals that represent Hatred and Darkness.

It can’t be accepted, as Alexander Solzhenitsyn wrote, that “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either — but right through every human heart — and through all human hearts.”

It’s so much easier and more reassuring to see that there are just a handful of evil apples that are ruining things for the rest of humanity.

Once this pivot to including a small cabal of Darkness and Hatred in an otherwise Love and Light Universe happens — a great oversimplification of human nature and society — there’s a tendency to join hands with progressive critics of the system who have long been focused on the elite who are ruining everything and shift into a kind of “holy war” against the evil rulers who control us.

People still get to keep their belief that ALMOST all of humanity (at least 99%) is ruled by Love and Light but they now acknowledge there are a few evil ones that have power and money who need to be exposed and purged.

This can result in perhaps the most distressing aspect of the worldview weakness, which then manifests in the form of Holy Warriors Battling Darkness.

There’s a messianic quality that grows in these folks because they can only see themselves as being Love and Light, which then sees the polarized antithesis in the form of elites who are clearly filled with Darkness and Hatred.

And that’s how you get all the way to Bill-Gates-is-the-Antichrist memes. He becomes the essence of the Dark Force, a Sith Lord here to enslave us unless a “Luke Skywalker-like Redeemer” can take him down.

By adopting this worldview, it naturally makes someone into one of the redeemers, which is a nice boost to one’s self-image.

This intensification of polarization into a purely black-and-white world fuels a kind of zealotry that shows up as Facebook rants and wacky conspiracy videos, sometimes fueled by messianic language such as the claim of a willingness to die-for-the-cause.

Once people reach this stage, they are no longer content to dabble in conspiracy theories. They are on a mission to wake you up and get you to join their battle with Evil. They are not conscious explorers anymore. They are Crusaders fighting for humanity.

Because folks in this camp have an identification with the Light and a strong opposition to the Dark (at least in others, as they often aren’t interested in personal shadow work), they can become compelling and charismatic leaders because they are rock solid in their convictions.

Because they are “all Light” they also accept things uncritically that support their holy war against the forces of darkness and will often make alliances with the people who share the same enemy. To overcome the forces of Darkness requires EVERYONE, so anyone who recognizes the dark forces must be part of the light brigade to save humanity.

And so again, there’s an alliance between anti-authority right-wing folks, who often use Biblical rhetoric about evil in their fights, and New Age conspirituality folks who are now joining forces to overthrow the shared enemy.

In some ways, this is the most dangerous version of the paradigm breakdowns that I’ve discussed, resulting in cultish, black-or-white crusaders against a simplistic evil empire. We are either on the redemption team or we are sheep.

Once people have gotten to this stage, they will start to uncritically accept just about every conspiracy meme that comes their way.

Was the George Floyd murder staged for globalist control? Of course. Were the race riots just another way for George Soros to get his tentacles into your life? Of course. Was the whole pandemic staged as a way to vaccinate the planet with microchips? Of course.

There is no limit to the evil that they believe the cabal of oppressors can do.

If there’s one thing that is not useful to a Crusader, it’s self-reflection, which tends to complexify things, distract their focus, or slow them down. They need to channel every ounce of energy they have into the fight.

And that is what many of us have witnessed in our orbit — the descent of otherwise good-hearted, conscious people into becoming Conspiracy Crusaders that we ultimately have to unfriend and write-off.

From the outside, it can seem so cartoonish and simplistic but from the inside, it feels like a powerful mission to protect the vulnerable and to end corruption. What could be wrong with that?

The truth, of course, is there there is plenty of conspiring around ways to take advantage of situations in the world by the privileged and the powerful AND people at all levels of society. There are actually many conspiracies to do very bad things.

But I don’t think one overarching plot of total global control is very plausible. People advance their self-interest in a way that harms others all the time and there is plenty of corruption. It’s just not limited to the top.

We can’t eradicate human suffering by simply vanquishing a few cartoon villains at the top. Evolution is slower business and requires time, growth, healing and building more than simply taking down a few bad guys, which might fulfill an idealistic fantasy in us but doesn’t survive deeper reflection.

Circling back to the upgrade we need on our “new paradigm” worldview, the way to address this weakness is to build patience, self-reflection, complex thinking, and shadow work into our new paradigm. We have to become patient, bridge-building evolutionaries rather than strident, simplistic Crusaders.

And yes, I know some of these tendencies well since my first book was called Radical Spirit.

The final Worldview Weakness to discuss in the context of understanding our moment is the idea that “we create our reality.” There is a helpful kernel of truth in this which gets us to take ownership for the ways that we create and perpetuate our circumstances. We attract friends and allies who are operating in a similar frequency. We often create life circumstances in alignment with our deepest beliefs.

However, we can’t declare that we want to have a Mars Rover appear before us and go to Mars. That’s not a reality we can create on a whim. We are constrained by technology, the current level of societal evolution, by time and by space.

In other words, we can often “tilt” reality with our consciousness but we’re not creating big leaps out of thin air. However, we have tens of thousands of pages of books and teachings that have gone under the broad umbrella of the so-called Law of Attraction which have tended to over-emphasize the degree we can choose/design/create our reality.

They almost entirely neglect the social and political context (was George Floyd able to create his own reality?), systemic biases, technological limitations and more.

The movie, The Secret, which I found appalling, was the biggest hit phenomenon of this teaching.

What this Worldview Weakness ultimately does is make “new paradigm” folks lazier when it comes to the hard work of making collective change and they also reinforce the “individual first” psychology that prioritizes one’s own good over the societal good.

The truth is that it took decades for women to get the right to vote, despite a lot of people working on creating that reality. It’s taken hundreds of years to even begin to get beyond the psychology of racism in our country.

By selling manifestation as too easy, our overall “new paradigm” world has undermined people’s discipline and fortitude to commit to change movements for a long haul and simply told them they can just wish things away with a magic wand.

The super-easy philosophy means that taking on real societal changes — which is a longer-term, multi-leveled commitment — are often de-emphasized over the “awakening” that happens from watching a video that “tells the true story.”

This Worldview Weakness makes people focus on things that only require shifting consciousness a bit, since that is the ONLY thing they believe shapes our reality, rather than a more sophisticated understanding of how evolution happens with inner and outer intertwined — slowly but surely.

In turn, the “you create your own reality” mindset leads to impatience and a tendency to focus on quick-fix solutions.

“Just watch this Agenda 21 video and you’ll wake up!”

Our upgraded “new paradigm” worldview thus needs to have a deeper understanding of how to move the levers of cultural change, a respect for how to engage that process, and a patient commitment to keep doing better.

The tendency to emphasize quick awakenings such as happens with plant medicines — which often catapult a user into a more expanded space — can reinforce the quick-fix mindset to make people more enamored of shifting their mind with new and more mind-blowing ideas (and there’s nothing more titillating than a good conspiracy!) than of rolling up their sleeves and making an impact in a social problem that needs addressing.

Because that’s a lot of work.

In short, the “you create your reality” meme leads people to engage in ways that promise instant gratification mental changes, which makes them prone to ever more out-there conspiracy theories.

It’s a lazy strategy for planetary change.

Hence the tendency of conspirituality adherents to focus a lot of attention and time on sharing videos and memes on social media rather than making sustained commitments to creating positive change in an area of expertise, in partnership with a coalition of allies.

This also pairs with some antipathy to make change through constructive engagement as a citizen with elected representatives (painfully slow) versus sharing memes with like-minded people (rapid and gets positive feedback validating how “awake” you are).

There are other Worldview Weaknesses, of course, that need to be addressed.

But if we simply consider that our current “new paradigm” tendency to create an alternative worldview in opposition to the mainstream, which inflates adherents’ self-importance, overprioritizes interior changes, emphasizes one’s desires over sacrificing to the larger community, disrespects the disciplines of mainstream experts, and gets mileage from having “secret esoteric knowledge,” all while reinforcing an identification with Love and Light, you begin to understand some of the weak points in our “new paradigm” worldview that have contributed to so many folks willingly going down a very dark rabbit hole.

My prayer is that they are able to stop before they unwittingly perpetuate the darkness they believe they are so committed to dispel. It’s clear, for instance, that some are now seeing Trump as a misunderstood redeemer (since once you have a conspiracy mindset, why not go all the way to QAnon?).

In this article, I’m not focusing on what we do to attempt to back them away from the abyss. A paradigm is a tough thing to shift once it is entrenched. It becomes the interpretative lens through which we view the world. Conspiracy media can also be very powerful for our subconscious. Once people are watching mainly self-reinforcing videos and creating social bubbles that reinforce their attacks on those who disagree as “sheep,” it may be close to impossible to rescue them until they hit some sort of bottom.

What we can do, more than anything, is see the ways that we have embodied, promoted, and accepted unbalanced aspects of the “new paradigm” worldview that are contributing to the problem by leading otherwise conscious, nobly motivated people into a spiral of uncritical rants.

They can be our canaries in the coal mine for the ways we need to grow and for our overall movement to mature. By embodying a grounded, integrative, respectful, holistic worldview that includes respect for both mainstream experts AND holistic pioneers while preserving our critical thinking, we can, hopefully, bring a few back from the abyss.

I confess that I’ve been saddened by the failure of our movement to meet this collective moment. People I once counted as respected colleagues have become leaders in the conspirituality and now anti-mask movement and it embarrasses me to think I once championed them and their work.

It would be easy to simply write them off and more painful to do this self-reflection and see the way that I have myself contributed to too-simplistic notions or too-idealistic teachings that helped lead them down that rabbit hole.

But I don’t believe there is really any choice if we are to serve at the level of healing, awakening, and sustainable change that I believe we can.

Our future on this planet requires a serious upgrade to our operating system of culture and consciousness and what’s become clearer to me is that we have a ways to go if we want to offer one that is grounded, mature, balanced, and endures.

Our conspirituality friends are a warning that we’ve got more work to do.

Founder & CEO of The Shift Network, member of the Transformational Leadership Council, speaker, author of Sacred America, Sacred World

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