My goal in writing is to meet other people who want to engage in collaborative exploration, practice, research, and creativity. That might involve several paths:
1) We could write analyses and critiques of contemporary forms of spirituality and their relationship to broader social, political, and economic trends. In 1843, Karl Marx wrote "Religion is the general theory of this world… its logic in popular form...The struggle against religion is... indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion." This is where I got the idea for the title of this blog. I think this is an aspect of Marx's thought that may be even more relevant today that it was in his time, because it challenges both religious and atheist notions of spirituality today, and it prompts us to reckon with the social experiences that fuel our spiritual lives.
3) We could draw insights from experiences we've had in political, social, and artistic movements: experiences that are not formally labeled "spiritual", but that engage similar intensities, becomings, and connections. For example, we could specify the ways we've become more sensitive to psycho-social realties by participating in recent freedom struggles, and could discuss the lessons we've learned.
hip hop, theologies, and fiction that explore these themes. Beginning in the 1960s and 70s, Third World worker and peasant activists reinterpreted Biblical stories from their unique perspectives, writing liberation theologies that inspired revolutionary movements. What if we did the same thing today, reinterpreting our various spiritualities from the vantage point of the struggles we are engaged in?
This process extends beyond formal liberation theology. For example, Walidah Imarisha and adrienne maree brown are exploring the potentials of what they call "visionary fiction". This is science fiction and fantasy storytelling that imagines possible revolutionary futures. Such stories travel paths that overlap with spirituality, theology, myth, and prophecy. Their Octavia's Brood project creates spaces for organizers to write visionary fiction as a way to explore political strategies we might eventually put into action.
5) We could engage in dialogue with each other, as people who come from various religious, non-religious, spiritual, and atheist backgrounds, challenging each other to grow beyond our dogmas while discovering affinities between our desires, thoughts, and practices.
With these goals in mind, this blog spirals through several different genres from poetry to theology to political theory to visionary fiction. It attempts to bring together conversations that often happen in isolation from each other. I hope to share and hone some methods we could use to track spiritual aromas back to their sources: our peoples' desires to break out of the capitalist system that is destroying us and the planet.
Spirituality is the aroma of the world, bursting out of the system's pipelines. Instead of treating it like a vacation from our oppression and alienation, let's treat it like playful training. It is our preparation to dismantle those pipelines and to join the alliance of human and non-human life that could overgrow them.
Pre-history: out of the hermitage and into the streets
This blog used to be called "From the Desert, Under Constantine", at spiritualdesert.blogspot.com. I stopped publishing regularly in order to focus on participating in the social movements that broke out in 2011. I decided to relaunch and rename it now that I've had some time to reflect on how my friends and I have grown through the explosion, fragmentation, repression, and gradual recomposition of these movements. It's certainly been an intense struggle, both personally and politically.
I'm hoping to connect with other folks who are also struggling toward spiritual and social liberation, especially those who are active in the movements and rebellions that are continuing to break out around the world.
I chose a new blog name to indicate a broader, more inclusive approach to these questions. My older blog adopted a vantage point that was a bit hermit-like, assessing the world from a small-group vantage point modeled after the early Christian mystics and desert monks. Here's how I described my intentions:
I am a Christian, an activist, a teacher, and a poet living in the middle of the spiritual desert that is the U.S. Like the desert Fathers and Mothers, I'm fleeing the churches built by the Empire with stolen gold, and running to the desert on the other side of the barbed wire. Like them, I have found a city growing in the desert, full of escaped slaves and undocumented prophets. Like them, I hope one day to storm the empire's capitals and help Jesus chase the money changers out of the temple.
Older posts (before 2011) reflect this approach. Some of them also show a commitment to an unorthodox, anti-state Marxist framework that still inspires me. However, I've since become more syncretistic and have rediscovered my political roots in anarchism, currents of decolonization, feminism, new materialist philosophies, and ecology.
After going through the growth and destruction of the Occupy movement, I am more suspicious of spiritual and political subcultures. But I'm also more confident that spiritual liberation and revolutionary politics can flourish together as rebellions continue to break out.