Much of what I have been writing about in the last year is directly related to this subject. I see this as a highly important topic to be aware of and think about as a society. The fact is that Postmodernism and the New Age movement are influencing almost everything in our society, I see this style of thinking as the greatest threat to American Exceptionalism. Regardless of whether modern Americans like to accept it this country was founded and built on American Enlightenment Philosophy and Judeo-Christian values. Our Founding Fathers broke away from the traditional thinking of Europe largely based on tradition and superstition and shifted to Enlightenment Philosophy which embraced reason and individualism. American Enlightenment embraced scientific reasoning to politics, science, and religion, promoted religious tolerance, and restored literature, the arts, and music as important disciplines and professions worthy of study in colleges. This created a healthy and balanced philosophy in our culture and its ultimate purpose was seeking truth through reason. For many years this philosophical thinking accompanied with Christian values resulted in the wealthiest, safest and most powerful country in the history of the world. Fast forward to today and we have now adopted Postmodernism Philosophy and New Age values in our society which is a distinct separation from reason and principles.
First, I would like to take everyone back to their childhood to address some of the macro issues with this cultural shift in thinking and values. From a young age all of us were taught that there is right and wrong (morality/philosophy), we also learned that if you don’t water the house plant it will die (science), and as the title stated we also learned that 2+ 2 = 4 (mathematics). Whether you believe in evolution or creation is irrelevant because we can all agree that there are physical, biological, scientific and mathematical truths and restraints in our world. I would go as far to say that most of us regardless of religion or politics would say that there is truth and falseness in much of what we do and witness in the world. To expound, the world is more black and white than grey. Let’s use this example as a basis for the discussion.
Some of you may have read my blog titled Its All About Me: How Entitlement is Destroying Our Culture, I believe that much of what I stated in this blog is a direct result of the emergence of Postmodernism Philosophy and New Age thinking in modern culture. In the aforementioned blog I discussed the increase in self confidence with the simultaneous decrease in measurable results. In essence, we have made a break from reality in our society and we believe that we can truly do anything even if that is factually impossible or inaccurate. Call it delusional or optimistic or progressive, I call it foolish. As a society we have turned our backs on the truths of math, science, philosophy and religion. Before moving forward, it is important that we define Postmodernism in order to go into further detail of how this type of thinking is influencing our culture, values and decisions.
Postmodernism: A general and wide-ranging term which is applied to literature, art, philosophy, architecture, fiction, and cultural and literary criticism, among others. Postmodernism is largely a reaction to the assumed certainty of scientific, or objective, efforts to explain reality. In essence, it stems from a recognition that reality is not simply mirrored in human understanding of it, but rather, is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own particular and personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person. In the postmodern understanding, interpretation is everything; reality only comes into being through our interpretations of what the world means to us individually. Postmodernism relies on concrete experience over abstract principles, knowing always that the outcome of one’s own experience will necessarily be fallible and relative, rather than certain and universal.
Wow, I would say that this sums up our modern culture pretty well. We are living in the world of “me” and what “I” define the world to be is reality. I believe this philosophical thinking to be highly destructive and has lead to unprecedented problems and issues in the United States that will eventually lead to its demise if gone unchanged. The 2008 real estate bubble and subsequent recession is a perfect example of the effects of Postmodernism Philosophy. When individuals begin to set their own reality then one begins to believe that owning four houses on a modest income is a reality and not a bad decision. As we found out there are limitations to markets and eventually they will correct. Our education system is another example of this philosophy, I addressed this in my last blog The Education Conundrum: Why Higher Education is Making us a Less Intelligent and Productive Society. We tell everyone in our society that they need to go to college to become doctors, lawyers and accountants and the result of that is 50% of college graduates are in careers that did not require a degree and are left holding a bag of debt. The separation from reason and truth we have embraced in Postmodernism Philosophy will continue to produce such results. I guess that math and science stuff has some truth to it after all.
Throughout history there is typically political and religious shifts when the general philosophy changes in a society. Enter in the New Age movement (aka Hinduism re-branded, we love to re-brand in America) the perfect bride to Postmodernism. One of my favorite thinkers and historical figures is C.S. Lewis. C.S. Lewis is the famous atheist intellect turned Christian. He came to see Christianity as truth through philosophical thinking and deductive reasoning. He tells an amazing account of this in his book Mere Christianity. C.S. Lewis stated that the major conflict between world religions would be between Christianity and Hinduism. As most Americans talk about the resurgence of Islam and how that will change the world the global spread of Hinduism has been largely ignored. Why? It has been re-branded as New Age and very well I might add. I have no statistical evidence of this but I would say that more Americans adhere to Hinduism beliefs than Christianity. Why did C.S. Lewis believe that there would be a great struggle between Hinduism and Christianity? In its essence Hinduism is rooted in all religion and the idea that everything is truth and there are many paths to the same enlightened ending. Are you starting to see the parallels to Postmodernism and how cultures philosophical thinking and religious values intertwine? You can have whatever religion you want — throw in half Buddhism, maybe a quarter Islam and a third Christianity with a pinch of Shamanism. A religion with over 300 million Gods allows you to pick and chose whatever God you want whenever you want, perfect for our consumer oriented culture. In contrast, Christianity states that there is only one truth which is in direct contradiction to New Age thinking.
What baffles me is how anyone can reconcile that given the significant difference in each particular religions thinking. It can only push an individual to accept contradiction in their life philosophy or shallowness so they do not have to become aware of their contradictions. This is only possible by disregarding reason for individual comfort. When reason is disregarded then all that is left is emotion which becomes the driver of decisions. This is disastrous. When decisions are made on emotion alone and reality is set by the individual then the individual is always going to do what “feels” best or right. There are no guiding principles, only emotions. This has lead to unprecedented issues in our society and the easiest to point to is the divorce rate. It is no longer about a commitment to another person it is about what “feels” right and making sure that the individuals happiness comes first. This level of selfishness has created havoc on our personal relationships and mental health in this country.
Lets just entertain for a moment that there is actually a God. One God. Why would the creator of humanity put such specific rules and restraints in the natural world and yet make humanities biggest achievement which is their relationship with God so ambiguous? It is something to think about on a rainy day. To put this into perspective from my own theological point of view, as a Christian my life philosophy is probably closer to an Aetheist than it is a New Age thinker. The Aetheist and I only differ in our belief of God but adhere to the reason and truths within the natural world, we do not believe that as individuals we set reality.
I do understand why Americans are embracing this thinking and philosophy. Lets face it, the world is hard and the vague and open messages of Postmodernism and New Age thinking are easy to digest when experiencing life in the moment. As Americans we are drunk on freedom and independence so the thought of being told that our “x” action is causing “y” result does not go over well anymore. The result is not dissimilar to telling a tired child unwilling to go to bed that they need to go to bed in order to feel better. We would rather suffer the alternative just so we felt we were in control or better said that we got to do whatever we wanted to do.
The fact is that we all need to be guided and directed and corrected in life in order to know what is truly good and bad for us. But we have sold out to that for the ability to do and say whatever we want. I don’t know about you but for me I would rather be coached on the right answer than have the false answer just to say it was my own. The natural order of reason usually does a great job of teaching us but we are even rebelling against those lessons. There are times I will see New Age statements that mean and say absolutely nothing but we love them because “we”, more specifically, “I” get to define what it means. Again, this takes us right back to the selfish child who wants his way and is told he can do whatever he wants. I cannot believe in a world that has many truths or answers to the same question and good and evil are one in the same. To me this is the ultimate resignation, believing in this philosophy actually takes the effort out of actually having to think and reason on a deep level. Why struggle over an issue when any direction you take is truth? Why worry about results when there are no mistakes only the individuals path to truth and reality?
Almost every subject I write about is rooted in the issues of Postmodernism and our separation from reason and truth. We have all been told and bought into the fact that we can be whatever we want, get whatever we need and believe whatever feels good. The only way to reconcile this thinking is by disengaging from reason. Whether you think this is good or bad is up to you as individual but I do believe that it is an important subject to discuss. The rapid growth and adoption of Postmodernism Philosophy and New Age thinking has effected our culture greatly and that in essence has started to change the way we think and function as a society. I personally believe it to be dangerous to have ideology in any culture that does not adhere to boundaries and believes that all paths lead to truth. I would hope that if all of us took the time to think and reason about that we would know that this is fundamentally false. I stand by this as the single most important issue of our time and I welcome any thoughts or oppositions to my thinking in hope this starts to be discussed at higher level.