Spirituality is an often vague and ill-defined idea, especially when contrasted with religion or science. People are looking for why there is tyranny in their own lives, and some find solace in exploring metaphysics or tinkering with their physiology. Although the latest cutting edge discoveries could increase your understanding of Nature, these emerging technologies might as well be just recreational, absent some practical use.
Questioning the nature of reality itself is an existential characteristic of sentient beings. Lessening curiosity becomes the death knell for free inquiry, which marks the beginning of the end for the human spirit. The authors justify the title for their book by saying:
“‘Consciously resisting’ means being willing to engage in self-reflection. Without knowing our own doubts, hopes, fears, dreams, insecurities and strengths we cannot truly know what freedom means to us as individuals. Becoming conscious of your actions is one of the most important steps towards understanding and claiming your own freedom. From that clear state of mind one can lead by example and help others in their own pursuit of self-discovery and freedom.”
Know thyself, is what the Grecian philosophers of old taught their students regarding the significance of integrity. In other words, what Broze & Vibes are promoting here is to willfully and knowingly exercise your freedom.
Objectivists are likely to cringe at the notion of “spiritual agnosticism.” Defined somewhat loosely, spiritual agnosticism is a subjectively held of personal beliefs about the nature of reality beyond the five senses and that the existentiality of deities is unknowable. Right off the bat, spiritual agnosticism is an excuse to believe in any old superstition you damn well want without being required to make a good faith effort (pun-intended) in justifying it somehow.
For instance, deists bear the burden of proof for justifying their spiritual belief using only science and philosophy. It’s almost as if these spiritual agnostics want to have their cake and eat it too by making a mockery of Hitchens’ razor. Religious toleration is one thing, but trying to prevent rational critiques of your superstition by insisting it’s all subjectively unknowable embraces, perhaps inadvertently, the same tyranny that grinds us down under its heel, and does so by its very irrationality.
A good chuck of this book simply takes the concept of “spiritual agnosticism” and applies it to various traditional views on metaphysics. Whether it be Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, shamanism, or even Islam, Broze and Vibes appear to believe that in order to be free, you can just make up whatever ideas you may have, no matter how incorrect, about the nature of reality itself, and that will somehow shrink or abolish the State, at least, by implication. I have no reason to think that engaging in ritual, imbibing psychedelics, or embracing your inner child is going to prevent or stop a Bluecoat from having his way with you during a traffic stop at the side of the road. As the authors themselves said:
“Many indigenous communities belief that life exists in all forms: plant, stone, human, animal and inanimate. We believe the closer we move to respecting all life as equal to our own, the deeper our understanding of liberty becomes. It is not only about pursuing freedom in terms of our individual paths, but recognizing the importance of allowing others to operate under their own freedom of action. Many of us already speak to our pets as children or companions. Why not acknowledge the life in plants, animals, crystals and the earth that surrounds us?”
So, that does mean that if I freely choose to smash my chair into tiny bits, I have violated the non-aggression principle because my chair is alive and sentient? If anything, such a notion would be none other than animism, rather than spiritual agnosticism. According to the authors, it seems to me, they think that property rights necessarily enslaves all those poor inanimate objects…*ahem*… “beings,” as well as animals; therefore, property rights in owning plants, animals, crystals, and real estate violate the non-aggression principle, right? Perhaps if the authors had spent more time studying economics and less time on “muh feels,” then maybe this whole systematic problem of the State would’ve been solved by now in a realistically practical manner.
Speaking of government, the authors’ use of the term, “panarchy,” is notoriously incorrect. Panarchy refers to an acceptance of all forms of governance (including monarchy, oligarchy, and democracy), with the proviso that each individual citizen explicitly consents to a particular form of government, and is able to easily leave said jurisdiction without having to completely uproot his life in order to do so; polyarchy is similar, except that it usually tends to be more discriminating in that it rejects all forms of absolute government in favor of different flavors of the night-watchman State.
What I do think is valuable here is an exploration taken in chapter four about the various schools of anarchism. The authors state:
“Voluntaryism is the idea of mutual non-aggression. You may notice us refer to this term throughout this book. On the surface, voluntaryism is just another word for anarchism. However, it denotes some very specific philosophical principles that take the definition of anarchism a step further. A voluntaryist not only believes in a world without rulers and slaves, but also advocates for a society built on a culture of peace, non-aggression and a general ‘live and let live’ atmosphere.”
This is an accurate description of voluntaryism, according to its own literature, so the authors didn’t completely screw that up, thankfully. I also found this portrayal of agorism intriguing:
“Agorism is the philosophy of creating alternative institutions to directly compete with the state. Samuel Konkin III outlined this strategy with the concept of Counter-Economics, or participation in economic activity that is typically seen as illegal by the state. This includes competing currencies, community gardening schemes, tax resistance and operating a business without licenses. Agorism also extends to the creation of alternative education programs, Free Schools or SkillShares, and independent media ventures. Also essential to Agorism is support of entrepreneurs who actively do business outside of the state’s license and regulations.”
As far as I can tell, the general idea of agorism is presented here correctly, even if the specific examples are not the best. Agorism is all about trading in the black and grey markets, and although white market activity is certainly an option economically, it’s still not agoric because not only does it not challenge the power of the State as the black and grey markets do, but it actually reinforces it by way of submission to its edicts. For instance, it’s already legal to trade Bitcoins and grow community gardens; what would be agoric instead would be assassination markets and guerrilla gardening, simply because they are considered mala prohibita by the State.
Derrick Broze & John Vibes’ The Conscious Resistance: Reflections on Anarchy & Spirituality is certainly a better philosophical book than FREEDOM!, yet, its defense of first principles was, well, rather lacking. Property rights were equally trivialized or ignored, the chapter on collectivism was muddled, and most significantly, there was nothing practical offered, even in terms of freeing yourself within your own head. Meditation was encouraged, but no tips on how to do it, yoga was only mentioned in passing, and lucid dreaming was totally absent. Considering the baggage thrown upon readers, tutorials on how to make their promoted “spiritual agnosticism” work for you, at least for beginners, would have made this book more palatable, but I made the mistake of expecting too much from sensationalistic celebritarians, it would seem.