New-Age++ ??

Sam pointed me at Chris Locke’s Mystic Bourgeoisie last year (I have a link in the side-bar). I was originally turned onto Chris Locke and his fellow collaborators at The Cluetrain Mainfesto back in the dot-com-bubble-burst days. My favourite then and since

“We can’t go on together, with suspicious minds.”
Elvis. The Cluetrain Manifesto

If you think about it, it’s my manifesto too. How do we know what people mean ? How do two parties either side of any relationship get a common understanding. Without that some misunderstanding is always suspected, but when does that matter ? Etc.

Mystic Bougeoisie pokes fun at much “New-Age” writing and ideas, but apart from being amusing I still haven’t actually got a handle on where Locke stands on these subjects. Nor have I found any way to comment on his blogs or communicate with him (help anyone ?)

Anyway he has coined “New-Age++” for modern, dare I say “holistic”, interpreters of erstwhile New-Agey concepts. Still can’t tell if he’s just taking the piss, or taking the piss whilst being sympathetic, but this collection of questions and reference materials is an interesting read. Apart from the “quantum physics” angle he doesn’t bring it completely into new-scientific realms, so the selection is partial or skewed from my perspective. Despite Dawkins pooh-poohing “the great convergence” too, I’m seriously thinking I need to write something in support of this idea.

Obviously, like the caricatures on Locke’s page, I’m far too clever to be taken in by the mystical attraction of the new-age stuff – my position is reasoned, intelligent, and based on sound scientific and epistemic fundamentals, naturally. 🙂 An interesting and provocative Catch-22. Infuriating not to be able to communicate with the guy.

[Post Note – Chris Locke has corresponded in the comment thread below.]

5 thoughts on “New-Age++ ??”

  1. You rang?

    odd that you suspect I might be sympathetic to the NewAge++ ideas I’m pissing on. I’m not sympathetic. not even a little bit. not trying to be glibly ironic. what I’m trying to show is that it’s no accident so many New Age and associated notions are closely associated, historically, with occultist leanings toward racism and fascism. This is not common knowledge but I hope to make it more so. btw, much criticism of the New Age comes from evangelical Christians, among whom I definitely do not count myself.

    sorry to have infuriated you. my business card is on the Mystic Bourgeoisie site, but maybe I should make it less… challenging for people to find my email address. 😉

  2. Thanks for the response Chris.

    I swear I didn’t / couldn’t see your business-card link – but I see it’s plain enough 🙂

    Infuriation is better than apathy I find.

    I can identify with the motive to distance the weirder examples of new-agey mystical bullshit (and I agree it’s 99% bullshit) from immoral politics.

    I could see you weren’t “sympathetic” I just couldn’t see what your actual motives were, other than the obvious negative ones. I guess all I’m missing from your site, is your alternative for “good quality knowledge” when the subject is human behaviour and psychology. Do you not also see limits to “objective science” in this space ? (I’ll be interested in what your point is about Maslow in your current thread – I think he’s substantially correct, whatever his original context or motives, for example.)

    You don’t seem to have a comments facility on your blog ? (Or is my eyesight worse than I realise ? 🙂 )


  3. Am I a fan of Dennett, Dawkins, Kurzweil, John Brockman and that whole crew. Decidely not. The quotes belong around “objective,” not necessarily “science.” But that’s a whole nother can of worms, which I don’t plan to open any more than I need to. Which is not very much.

    As to Maslow, his work has never been shown to have any solid basis. His musings were just that: subjective notions of what constituted “self-actualization.” The work does make sense, however, if seen — as it should be — as deeply rooted in eugenic assumptions of what constitutes “the best and the brightest.” He came directly out of that scene (see E.L. Thorndike, his mentor), yet no one seems to have connected the dots.

    There are no comments on Mystic-B, you’re right. But you managed to comment, no? 😉

  4. Hi Chris,

    Dennett I’m a fan of, Dawkins no – I’ve been very critical. Kurzweil too leaves me cold, and Brockman’s stable is maybe a “curate’s egg”; some of the individuals are worth listening to.

    The “can of worms” of what makes good quality knowledge when the limits of objective science get iffy, is my main subject of interest, so I can’t ignore it. I can assure you I have no “eugenic” motives though 🙂

    Interestingly, in your second para, after saying you want to avoid that can of worms, you do comment on whether Maslow’s work has a “solid-basis” (what makes a solid basis is the can of worms, my agenda). I’m the first to say that “intent” is a key necessary part of understanding something (knowledge), but it’s not “sufficient” in the technical sense.

    ie I prefer not to throw the Maslow baby out with the eugenic bathwater, if that be the case, but to better understand the baby. But it’s good to be aware of the dangers around the historical edges of this stuff, and connect the dots when making proposals going forward. (These pragmatic paradoxes of good mixed with bad, are part of the Catch-22 I refer to, but that’s another story.)

  5. And this is the comment I mailed you, just to keep the thread together.

    Your creative weirdness has always been a part of the attraction of course, that and the fact that weirdness doesn’t preclude quality thinking, quite the opposite I find. Which, if you think about it, is quite close to the subject we’re discussing.

    Despising the perniciousness of misguided mysticism, you are of course sailing pretty close to Dawkins. (Personally I can’t stand Dawkins, I find Dennett and Blackmore wiser, wittier and more common-sensical when it comes to memes and the like.)

    The fact is, unfortunately if you like, is that uncompromising scientific objectivity is not the answer to that misguided mysticism. In a way that’s Dawkins mistake. He’s almost as bad, and his ideas as pernicious, as his enemies. Reality is actually more complicated than that – just complicated enough in fact.

    I guess you’re being uncompromising in your pillorying of the misguided mysticism. I’m looking (anywhere) for better (high quality) ideas to put in place of the low quality memes. That said, I completely agree that anyone who set’s themselves up to say my ideas are better than yours and must therefore prevail through authority, is
    on the road to the kind of bigotted evil you are railing against. So it’s good to warn of those dangers.

    Memes do not prevail through authority, but by evolution, by being “fit” for their environment – by being the right quality.

    Interesting stuff

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