Spiritual escapism, contemplating ecologists, unequal immortality, and Mormon bigfoot

Monday March 20th - Sunday March 26th
with stories from High Existence, Outside, Wired, By Athame & Stang, and Jason Colavito.


What is spiritual bypassing? Something that probably applies to you, at least a little.

In a widely-shared post from High Existence, co-founder Jordan Bates uses "spiritual bypassing," a term coined in the early 1980s by psychologist John Welwood, to talk about some often-ignored pitfalls for those on the spiritual path. The term refers to avoiding difficult feelings and emotional needs by being forcibly lighthearted or manufacturing calm. Bates goes on to outline ten examples he has struggled with or seen in other people seeking to grow spiritually from a sense of superiority to being dangerously naive.


David Haskell wants you to meet twelve trees from across the world.

Outside magazine profiles the ecologist, best known for Pulitzer nonfiction finalist The Forest Unseen: A Year's Watch in Nature (Viking, 2012) in which Haskell, inspired by Buddhist monks making mandalas out of sand, spent a year studying a small patch of forest. His followup, The Songs of Trees: Stories from Nature's Great Connectors, comes out on April 4th with appearances from an olive tree at the Damascus Gate in Jerusalem to a giant ceibo in the Ecuadorian rainforest.


The dead and the undead, otherwise known as life extension for the few.

Silicon Valley companies look at life extension purely in terms of added years, says Emily Dreyfuss in Wired. But they're not very inspired when it comes to making them good years, especially for any but the privileged few. So while the prospect of ending mortality entirely is often glamorized (Peter Thiel says, "Basically, I’m against it."), the disproportionate benefits are ignored: swaths of the world lack basic sanitation, access to water, or education while tech startups create "stuff that turns out to be apps or toys for rich people," SUNY Polytechnic historian Andrew Russell tells the magazine.


Adding "hedge-crossing" to your lexicon might clarify some spirit travel.

A frequent blogger at Patheos, a community-oriented site for every religious faith, distinguishes between guided meditation, astral projection and "hedge-crossing." This latter term, writes Kelden in By Athame & Stang, originates from literal hedges blended with the old Saxon word "haegtessa," which translates roughly to "Hedge-Rider." In the way that a wall of plants divides cultivated land from the surrounding wilderness, hedge-crossing suggests journeys out of the body which specifically target the spiritual world, as opposed to a narrow definition of astral projection which suggests an energetic replica of the mundane world, or guided meditation which suggests a interior mental journey.


Some Mormons believe that Bigfoot is actually Adam's son Cain.

It all comes back to a dubious sighting in 1835 by an early church president named David Patten in the woods of Tennessee, writes skeptical blogger and science fiction author Jason Colavito. Patten allegedly encountered an exceptionally tall and hairy figure who said "he could not die, and his mission was to destroy the souls of men." Colavito traces the event in a game of historical telephone, which was then interpreted as Cain in Mormon folklore but today would more likely be understood as Bigfoot. He soon discovers how the apelike features of Bigfoot coupled with a then-Protestant belief associating Cain with dark skin, gave rise to some seriously unhinged racist speculations.


"There are three possible positions that one may take concerning the evidence for ESP. First, the position of orthodox scientists, who believe that ESP does not exist. Second, the position of true believers, who believe that ESP is real and can be proved to exist by scientific methods. Third, my own position, that ESP is real, as the anecdotal evidence suggests, but cannot be tested with the clumsy tools of science."
— Elizabeth Lloyd Mayer,
Extraordinary Knowing (Bantam, 2007)

That's all for this week. Look out next Monday morning!