Saturday, 2 March 2013

David Lorimer and New World Values

David  Lorimer

Seven years ago, the present writer composed a letter of complaint to David Lorimer. The mailing list was extensive, and included over sixty members of the Scientific and Medical Network (SMN), led by Lorimer.  Yet only one of those recipients replied, and in a purely personal context. The key addressee, David Lorimer,  was notable for a total lack of response.

The contents of that letter included reference to various anomalies within organisations influenced by Lorimer, and also the Findhorn Foundation, closely linked to SMN membership and subscriptions. Discrepant behaviour of authority figures was a primary feature. Evasion was preferred by SMN recipients.

Lorimer is known for his activities as a writer and lecturer, including the book Radical Prince (2003), the subject here being the Prince of Wales. He is Programme Director for the SMN, and Vice-President of the closely associated Wrekin Trust, “a charity concerned with adult spiritual education” to use one of the media descriptions. Lorimer’s blog emphasises “vision and values for a new world view.” So what are the royalist connotations of “spiritual education” and “new world”?

Lorimer has expressed estimation for both Ken Wilber and Andrew Cohen, two controversial new age celebrities promoted by the Findhorn Foundation. His arguments were not convincing. In 2004, Lorimer even stated: “I have been impressed by the level of debate between Andrew Cohen and Ken Wilber in What is Enlightenment?” This deference to a commercial magazine, the well known vehicle of Cohen, tends to confirm “new world” drawbacks in spiritual education. Elsewhere, Wilber and his “integral spirituality” are the subject of strong critical attention from former enthusiasts and other commentators. Cohen has gained a very unenviable reputation as an American guru of extremist tendency.

To provide an update here,  other  entities are favoured  in the SMN ratings. In 2011, Lorimer named “Jung, Maslow, Stanislav Grof, Charles Tart” as being “far more meaningful” than the psychology syllabus in British universities. In particular, the explicit deference to Grof merits close attention.

In the same interview, Lorimer stated: “One of the assumptions I am making is that my mind is the Universal Mind.” Reminiscent of the Ken Wilber “Big Mind” lore promising enlightenment, this belief can cause acute confusion. We should be very careful before assuming that our very limited individual bundle of mental impressions has any relation to a “Universal Mind.” The neo-Advaita of Cohen is noted for the theme of cosmic identity, which is flippant to the point of absurdity in new age circles. 

The designation of Scientific and Medical Network is quite affirmative. This organisation is not calling themselves, e.g., the Alternative Scene for New Age Beliefs and Daring Theories. No, they are something far more reliable, far more ultimate, and indeed far more authoritarian. To the extent, indeed, that they can ignore complaint. They are too scientific to be criticised. That is the implication. They are too medical to be taken to task for supporting the holotropic and psychedelic beliefs of Grof. New world values mean, e.g., that hyperventilation (employed by Grof) is a deceptive avenue to cerebral hypoxia, denoting a decreased supply of oxygen to the brain (Stephen J. Castro, Hypocrisy and Dissent within the Findhorn Foundation, 1996, pp. 45-6). The results are purely material, not spiritual, like the blatantly commercial motivations involved.

Holotropic Breathwork (HB) was a very lucrative exercise devised by Grof at the Esalen Institute in California, and also employed at the Findhorn Foundation for several years until official intervention occurred. In this “new age workshop” sphere, everything is done for money. Grof resorted to HB because his LSD psychotherapy faced legal problems in the 1970s reaction to the hallucinogenic drug. He also employed “MDMA therapy” until the mid-1980s, his method having been described as “drug-aided mind manipulation in order to create paranormal beliefs” (Shepherd, Pointed Observations, 2005, p. 126). Yet Grof chose to gloss problems as “spiritual emergencies.” Grof transpersonalism has enjoyed a big dollar turnover via Grof Transpersonal Training Inc.

In this suspect scenario of the new world elite, wealthy academics and promoters can profitably ignore complaints. Entrepreneurs thrive on the absence of criticism, which is banished from the convenience of commerce and pseudo-meaning. On the basis of LSD experiences and holotropic sessions, Grof has devised a "cartography of the psyche," which critics reject as spurious (cf. Grof, Psychology of the Future, 2000, pp. 20ff.).

Alternative therapy has been big business for several decades at places like Esalen and the Findhorn Foundation. I have related how a 1990s unfortunate lost his wife in this popular quicksand, and after she had suffered most of the following drawbacks created by group sessions of “therapy”: nervous breakdown, suicidal tendencies, severe headaches, involuntary muscle spasms, memory failure, and lack of decision making ability. Yet therapy deceptions have gained the status of “a unifying shift in our worldview,” to quote one of the ubiquitous celebrations on the new age media.

In the direction of drug use, the exhortations are widespread on the internet, and some channels are strongly associated with the Grof bandwagon. Even at relatively low volume pitch on email responses to journalism, one can find strident web voices urging that humanity has been taking drugs for thousands of years, and the police are therefore an obstruction to presumed benefits. More realistically, there are devastated LSD victims in wheelchairs, while the recent craze for ketamine  has involved extreme bladder problems and stomach operations for young victims.  The new age now features teen sufferers with incontinence. Also in evidence are daily “recreational” users of skunk cannabis who favour the popular “shift in worldview.” They are unable to stop their drug habit, which can prove deadly, being only a step away from cocaine and heroin.

The main subject of the Letter of Complaint to David Lorimer was a former member of the SMN, whose situation (as a relative of mine) I was closely familiar with. Jean Shepherd (Kate Thomas) suffered discrimination because she was a critic of drug use.  David Lorimer’s close colleague, the Findhorn Foundation Trustee Janice Dolley, was here the agent of cordon. The victim expressed the realistic view  that drug experiences are counterfeit, comprising a delusion of “spirituality” for the partisans, and a misleading cue to addiction for the clientele. Yet the critic was downgraded by the SMN in favour of Grof’s academic disciple Christopher Bache, an exponent of psychedelic neoshamanism. 

The Bache encounter with LSD involved a major problem: “I interrupted my work [for seven years] because the extreme nature of the states I was entering became too stressful for my family to endure” (Bache, Dark Night, Early Dawn, SUNY Press 2000, p. 311 note 10). Anomalously, the academic drug advocates deny causing any problem, talking of their “moderate” usage as distinct from street excesses. Yet the pro-cannabis refrains of Tart, and the LSD lore of Grof and Bache, have been very influential, permeating counterculture with false concepts, thereby assisting drug-pushers on the street.

The academic drug advocates are viewed by citizen philosophy as “shallow mystics who invent a form of specious logic that misleads thousands and millions of people deceived by prestigious credentials” (Shepherd, Some Philosophical Critiques and Appraisals, 2004, p. 50).

In the strongly contested new age, Scientific and Medical now signifies evasion, commercial “workshops,” Jung lore, and psychedelic theory. The “new world” orientation leads to a blind alley of “channelling” delusion, hallucination, visits to real medics for assistance in survival, aversion to criticism  in the interests of income and economic expansion, and  a  neglect of ethical considerations.
 
Kevin R. D. Shepherd

ENTRY no. 53

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