Is the spiritual counterculture doomed?

I would love to gainsay the point made by Nicholas Fuller in a recent essay at Evolutionary Landscapes. Sites like Reality Sandwich, and movements like Evolver, and the entire subcultural milieu that they represent, not to mention the general worldview they inhabit and promulgate, are near and dear to me. But damn it, Fuller is onto somethin when he says this is all destined for destruction. Especially see the part of his essay — not excerpted below (because I want you to click through and read the piece in its entirety) — where he describes his own workaday worries and pressures involving relationships and school and money, and points out that “No amount of DMT, books on Buddhism, and weekend retreats of spiritual practices can even begin to address any of the issues above, and frankly, between my 40+ hour work week and full time college work load, I barely have time for the sleep my body desperately needs, let alone the nourishment I’m told my soul needs.” In other words: If he’s feeling this disconnect, then it’s surely lodged in the collective psyche of America at large and people elsewhere as well. And that spells trouble for all of those spiritual concerns that have self-identified as standing outside and apart from the dreary inferno of everyday life. This is deeply perceptive. And tragic.

As a supporter of consciousness movements, and new versions of spirituality alike, this is not something I am happy to state as I saw these movements really coming into their own in the last ten years. Nonetheless, like a coroner at the scene of a tragic family accident, I must pronounce this promising flame of possibilities deceased…Why is it doomed, you ask? The proof is in the title of this article, and the very definition of the movement — counter-culture. With this simple phrasing, the spiritual movement has misstepped in its reborn infancy, and is now irrevocably damaged. When a movement begins to self-identify as separate, it has lost

…As soon as it, or any other movement does this, the antibodies come out, the immune system activates against the infection and immediately isolates it, scheduling it for destruction. Every successful movement has only been successful because it fought tooth and nail to not be seen or considered outsiders or counter to the status quo, but rather an existing part of it…The United States of America was not called “The Counter-Britain States of America”, rather, it pushed a unity for everyone in its every act and action. They fought for freedom of speech, taxation, religion, and representation as all other states under Britain received. Like Dr. King hundreds of years later, they preached freedom and equality for all, as part of the all

…In the very act of the counter-culture identifying itself as such, it has shot itself in the foot and violated the very message of unity and oneness it set out to change the world with. This means that the cultural antibodies have activated and swarmed and it is already being fought hard against by its very nature.  If they had fought for the unity they set out for, they would have accomplished their goal. Instead they did the exact opposite, which, in the minds of the masses, violated the fundamental rule of Inceptionyou have to make the dreamer think the idea is theirs.

— Nicholas Fuller, “The Spiritual Counter-Culture Is Doomed,” Evolutionary Landscapes, April 17, 2012

Indeed and exactly.


We also have the life and accomplishment(s) of someone who shares Nicholas Fuller’s last name, but whose existential example provides, if not a refutation of the basic point made above, then a kind of transcendence of it: Buckminster Fuller. (For a brief, excellent, and inspiring profile, see “The Vision of Buckminster Fuller.”) Fuller famously experienced a spiritual/existential crisis and transformation in mid-life, accompanied by a collapse of his outer circumstances, and determined to devote himself to “an experiment to find what a single individual can contribute to changing the world and benefiting all humanity.”

More specifically:

[A]t the age of 32, finding myself a “throwaway” in the business world, I sought to use myself as my scientific “guinea pig” in a lifelong experiment designed to discover what — if anything — a healthy young male human of average size, experience, and capability with an economically dependent wife and newborn child, starting without capital or any kind of wealth, cash savings, account monies, credit, or university degree could effectively do that could not be done by great nations or great private enterprise to lastingly improve the physical protection and support of all human lives, at the same time removing undesirable restraints and improving individual initiatives of any and all humans aboard our planet Earth.

— “Citizen Science Musings: Buckminster Fuller and the Utopian Impulse

The answer, of course, was that Fuller was able to do an almost miraculous amount of valuable work, not just scientific and technological but philosophical, that would make him one of the towering figures of the 20th century. He invented the geodesic dome, coined the term and concept “spaceship earth,” and proclaimed that human suffering could be eliminated if we just had the will. “There are few men,” writes PBS for its American Masters series, “who can justly claim to have revolutionized their discipline. R. Buckminster Fuller revolutionized many. ‘Bucky,’ as he was known to most, was a designer, architect, poet, educator, engineer, philosopher, environmentalist, and, above all, humanitarian. Driven by the belief that humanity’s major problems were hunger and homelessness he dedicated his life to solving those problems through inexpensive and efficient design.” Says Popular Mechanics, “The late, great architect and inventor brought us the geodesic dome, but Buckminster Fuller’s often twisted, often brilliant vision extended far beyond air-conditioned sporting arenas. From super-efficient cars carrying lots of passengers to entire cities encapsulated by single roofs, he made Frank Lloyd Wright look positively normal, and his prescient engineering foreshadowed — and continues to inform — the movement toward green design and prefabricated housing.” A young Robert Anton Wilson (to get us back to the spiritual counterculture) was floored by a lecture Fuller gave in 1956, and counted him a genius and a hero for the rest of his life. When Fuller’s magnum opus, the book Critical Path, was published in 1981, Wilson called it “an event of historical impor­tance, because the survival of humanity might — just might — depend on how many people read and understand what Dr. Fuller has to say.”

Fuller’s transformative crisis, and his question about what he could accomplish with his life that would be truly worthwhile, is actually one that presses on each of us from the moment we’re born. This is because the crisis and the question both have to do with the issue of life purpose, calling, lifework, vocation. What are we here to do? How shall we live? We’re basically thrown into the world (as Heidegger would say) and left to figure out not only what it’s all about but what we are all about, each of us, individually.

And when it comes to the question of whether the spiritual counterculture it doomed, I find I’m forced by my own experience and long reflection on this very matter to say that both Nicholas Fuller and Bucky Fuller are correct. The current spiritual counterculture may indeed be doomed, and for the very reasons N. Fuller elucidates. But the truly countercultural force must always be the individual and his or her Bucky Fuller-esque first-person awakening from the cultural consensus trance that is a non-negotiable and unavoidable part of being born. And when it comes to this, the life or death of social movements is intrinsically tangential.

Collectively, the current spiritual counterculture will go away, just like the last one did after the 1970s (to be continued for awhile as an insipid caricature of itself in the New Age movement of the 80s and 90s). It will probably have worked some real changes and effected a real shift of the cultural center of gravity, just like the last one did. But die it will, and without having realized its political, societal, and economic aims. (This is all assuming that our political, social, and economic systems haven’t all entered some dramatic stage of real and terminal collapse by then.) And another such movement will come along at some point to continue the work.

But the stillpoint of the individual psyche, and the grace-given decision of the individual to ask himself or herself that ultimate question — or rather, to figure out what the very question is, to divine and enact the deep query that he or she is innately and daemonically driven to ask and answer with the fact of a unique individual life — this must be the perennial locus of the counterculture, whose essence is therefore defined, ultimately, as the transcendent impulse to shake off the conditioned psychic nets of culture, language, and temporal circumstance, and see-live-know life in its real vibrancy as an experience of the eternal One Mind knowing itself in the up-close-and-personal social and sensory reality of the embodied Now. From this point of centered self-and-world-knowledge, you can do almost anything.

About Matt Cardin


Posted on June 14, 2012, in Religion & Philosophy and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 20 Comments.

  1. Woah, thanks for the response blog. Great thoughts here. I’ll have to read it in detail later. Will be sure to forward this to Nick himself! – Jer

    • Thanks for alerting him, Jeremy. I first read Nick’s essay/post a couple of weeks ago and found it truly memorable. It took me until today to get around to responding. Amusingly, I think I thought of Bucky Fuller in connection with the whole subject before noticing that you had mentioned him in the essay’s comments section — although maybe not, because I did a quick (as in lightining) scan of the comments before writing my piece, and although I don’t remember noticing that, I may well have taken it in subliminally. There is, however, no question that you’re the one who directed me to the cool video. 🙂

  2. Nicholas Fuller

    Hey there,

    What a great write-up, and I really loved your detail and comparisons of the personal, spiritual movement, and the external spiritual movement. This is the heart and essence of what I was trying to write about and give details on in my piece.

    I am deeply honored for you to have read it, and especially for wanting your readers to read it too.

    To tell you the truth, I’ve been debating with myself about whether or not I should continue to do pieces for Evolutionary Landscapes, and this fantastically well written piece here (with prose and vocabulary that puts my best of written pieces to shame, by the way) has become the catalyst for me to jump in and see what comes out.

    Thank you again for writing this piece, it certainly lead me to knowing some more about the topic of “Bucky” and also reminded me that I have a copy of his History of Western Philosophy on my bookshelf, that I’ve sadly only seen the spine of.

    • It’s great to meet you, Nicholas. I’m glad my response to your piece really spoke to you, and doubly glad that I could inadvertently encourage you to keep writing for Evolutionary Landscapes. I’ll certainly keep an eye out, because I really appreciated your insightful thoughts on the nature and likely future of the current spiritual counterculture.

      Is that history of Western philosophy by Buckminster Fuller or Bertrand Russell? If it’s the former, I’ll have to look that up myself, because I didn’t know Bucky had produced such a volume. I had a copy of Russell’s master book on my shelves for years. Never read it through but dipped into it quite often. Now I can’t even remember why I got rid of it. I may need to acquire another copy.

      • Nicholas Fuller

        Oh wow, I totally screwed up the author of the book on my shelf. That’s what I get for writing without doing research first haha. Yeah it is Bertrand Russel, apologies for the confusion.

        On that particular note, have you any specific recommendations for Buckminster’s works?

        • Hey, no problem on the Bertrand Russell thing. I gestalt in the wrong word and/or misname things all the time. I consider it a part of being a serious language user. 🙂

          Regarding recommendations for Bucky Fuller’s works, I haven’t actually read any of his books in their entirety, not even Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth, which is basically canonical. But I think that one, plus Critical Path, are the way to go. At least that’s where I’m starting myself when I decide one day in the not indefinite future to amp up what is essentially my layperson’s knowledge of him.

  3. Phenomenal piece, Matt. It really concretizes—very eloquently—a lot of stuff that has been rolling around, unformed, in my head. Countercultural spirituality isn’t about wearing Shipibo clothing, smoking Salvinorin A at a regional burn, and having your chakras tattooed on your skin. There’s nothing wrong with any of that, but it’s alienating to lots of open-minded people who might be turned off by the trappings and then go on to dismiss the core message.

    • Well said, Michael, and thank you for the good words. It doesn’t surprise me at all that you and I are in agreement here, and I’m always glad to help articulate someone’s incipient thoughts (not least because this is one of the services that I’m most grateful for whenever other writers perform it for me). Making the counterculture the dominant culture is definitely the proper mode of attack / integration / transmutation.

  4. This article is the result of a misunderstanding about what spirituality and counterculture are.
    The difference between spiritual “counterculture” and other countercultures is that when you really follow what world spirituality is saying, it is inclusive, not exclusive. Pretty much every counterculture has the idea that the group in question is living superiorly to all other, and that the old system needs to be rejected. True spiritual enlightenment, the goal of this movement, does not say “the old system is wrong and the new one is better”… It’s not wrong or better, because we went through this phase of evolution for a reason, and the majority of people needed to be in these old ways of living to cope with their suffering, because they knew of no other way to do so. It follows that with the internet and the fluid spread of information, people are not restricted to ways of living that they were raised on, anyone who wants to continue their spiritual evolution will do so because they will eventually find the information that will catalyze it. Therefore, anyone who judges others or the current culture hasn’t yet realized the spiritual necessity of the systems in place.

    The reason why the current spiritual movement will not die out, like the one in the 60’s did, lies in the following reasons: most of society today is a lot more open than it was 50 years, most people who are living true to the principles of the movement are seeing REAL results in the improvement of their lives, and that it’s not a gimmicky, ego-driven fad that people are doing to be cool, which will die out whenever it’s no longer cool.

    On the openness of today’s society: in the 60’s, most of the West was still in fundamentalist Christian mode. Anything not Christianity is satan, and needs to be stamped out. New ideas were resisted with such fervor, that people who lived by them were declared “dangerous”, and laws were made to prevent them from spreading (this being the psychonaut page, you all should know the extent of this with the government making psychedelic drugs schedule I). People mainly lived by what they were raised by. Nowadays, it’s totally different. Few people are living the same kind of lifestyle their parents did, the power of religious indoctrination is slipping, and acceptance of change is the status quo since the continuously accelerating technological advancement of the 90’s.

    On real results from living by the principles of the modern spiritual movement: Meditation, by and large, is probably the most common practice of the current movement. Meditation has so many physical, psychological, and emotional health benefits. People participating in the current movement are really feeling profound changes occuring within them. In the 60’s, it was more along the lines of “take 4 tabs of acid, and you’ll be enlightened”… either that, or you found spiritual knowledge through people who espoused such a belief system, which would taint your perception of such knowledge. It doesn’t work like that anymore, sustained practice is the status quo, and makes lasting transformations of self. That is why the current movement is working and why people will stick with it.

    On the “coolness” factor: In the 60’s, many people were jumping aboard the hippy spiritual counterculture because that was what all the “hip” kids were doing. The Beatles, Hendrix, The Grateful Dead, etc. were all spreading that vibe through pop culture, and when they faded, so did the 60’s spiritual counterculture. Nowadays, the spiritual movement is not being spread through mass appeal, but through grassroots person-to-person ways. The internet will prevent its decline, and will in fact allow it to continue indefinitely. In the 60’s, when all the musicians and artists were phased out for the next round of musicians and artists, spiritual ideas effectively left the collective consciousness of our culture because there was no way for it to reach the masses. The internet is viral, information spreads between people in the know, with or without it being popularized by celebrities. The modern spiritual movement pulled itself up from its bootstraps, without super-famous people really pushing it. Spreading spirituality through a “look how cool it is to be spiritual” means is phony, and is exactly what did it in during the 60’s. It’s not about trying to be cool, but about finding yourself, and that is what people are finding right now.

    This article is the result of seeing the spiritual movement through a very narrow, highly personalized lens.

    • I appreciate what you’re saying, and I do see what you see: that there are indeed some qualitative differences between today’s counterculture and the previous one(s). But — to call out one crucial strand of your nicely multi-pointed response — I detect a note of techno-optimism and techno-utopianism underlying your thinking, and I strongly urge you to notice and reconsider it. Ditto for a note of millenialism, which always has been, is now, and always will be a false understanding of reality if applied literally to our understanding of events.

      Regarding the techno-optimism, I seriously recommend a dose of, say, Evgeny Morozov for a reality check. He’s currently going around pointing out, with perhaps more punch and power than anybody else, that the much-vaunted capacity of our new digital interconnected to foster freedom and democratic revolution and so on is just as able to produce totalitarian, dictatorial, and dystopian results, and in fact is doing so in many cases right before our eyes.

      I definitely wouldn’t hitch any hopes for the ultimately different, better, more effective, more comprehensive, effects and outcome of the current counterculture to techno-utopian hopes and expectations, or at least not to them alone. As another great theoretician of the Internet’s meaning, purpose, and future, Eben Moglen, pointed out in an absolutely brilliant talk that Lorenzo put out as a recent episode of the Psychedelic Salon (titled Occupy the Internet, we currently stand in a situation where both a truly disastrous and dystopian outcome of the Internet-and-culture interaction and a truly liberating one are both quite possible. “The greatest technological innovation of the late 20th century,” he points out, “is the thing we now call the World Wide Web, an invention less than 8,000 days old. That invention is already transforming human society more rapidly than anything since the adoption of writing.” And yet, despite the Internet’s positively wondrous possibilities, the decidedly dark ones are prominent: “We are on the verge of elimination of the human right to be alone. We are on the verge of the elimination of the human right to do your own thinking in your place in your own way without anybody knowing…The Network, as it stands now, is an extraordinary platform for enhanced social control. Very rapidly, and with no apparent remorse, the two largest governments on Earth, that of the United States of America and the People’s Republic of China, have adopted essentially the identical points of view. A robust social graph connecting government to everybody, and the exhaustive date mining of society, is both governments’ fundamental policy with respect to their different forms of what they both refer to, or think of, as ‘stability maintenance.'”

      In other word, things aren’t just tending naturally and automatically in a good direction.

  5. Hot diggitty dog ! After reading the article fascinating article on sehnsucht , that sort of got my curiosity to rummage about purusing other articles on the web blog here .

    Let me state after reading the article above, that duty leads me to conclude that the article misses the point of why the particular sort of “spiritual” counterculture (of the sort Mr.Fuller describes) is doomed . The sort of counterculture he describes (of the people who find affinity for DMT , Burning Man Festivals , chakras , the artwork of Alex Gray and the like) is doomed , NOT because it opposes the status quo . Instead it is doomed because of two other concurrent factors .

    (1) . It is often kitschy , easily lending itself to being a self-carciature already…steeped in an MTV era / 4 chan meme poster era , fauxhemian / PSEUDO-bohemian sort of zeitgeist, which has the cultural mood that pervades so much of the current mass media mileu of the cliche cultural outlets such as HBO, the indie film circuit, rinky-dink dillettante films of the ‘I Heart Huccabees” sort of ilk , MTV , chat rooms , latte at Starbucks dilletantes , Deepak Chopra squish literature, talk shows like the View , the Sci-Fi channel , photo blogs for chic, edgy, copycat hipsters and other contemporary mass culture suburban , the Utne Reader, and other similar mass media derivative, trendy , bourgeous squish .[It has much the same tenor of the baby boomer cadre of ex-hippies turned yuppie sellouts who still retained some bastardized vestiges of the hippie scene…and who identified in the 1980’s which such ambivalent , goofy cultural artefacts as the t.v. series titled ‘Thirtysomething’.

    It seems to be a new mutation of that same sort of bastardized , pseudo-bohemian/fauxhemian sort of sensibility, only with the younger generations mostly , who borrowed motifs from the rave /ambient movement of the 1990’s . Hence, the NEO-hippie, new “spiritual” counterculture favors the status quo. It has much of the same kitschy mood that is fodder for advertisers —such as the advertisers of bastardized psychedelia that was utilized by the Fruitopia juice drinks in the mid to late 1990’s , or Woodstock 94, or more recently with the open-ended talk of “love” in the advertisments for Subaru .

    (2). Concurrent with the above , there is an attitude of trite, glib, goofy relativism / postmodernism which pervades the new “spiritual” so-called counterculture …an attitude of ambivalence / capriciousness / embracing of internal contradictions in thought, which infuriatingly *undermines* and works *against* the idealism (which such persons give *lip service* to) when it denies the ideals any absolutely true or right axiological standing.

    Let’s face it , there is nothing more banal / more status quo, more rinky dink than relativism/ambivalent thinking . The relativist , NEO-hippie type new “spiritual” counterculturists …with the goofy, trite and trendy memes about how supposedly “all is one” , or how supposedly “everything is connected” , and “everything has beauty”, “nonperfections make one beautiful” , and “no absolutes” makes out any sort of fervent societal transformation that such people claim to be fighting for into a makeshift and diluted affair …one lacking in any ultimacy . If there are no absolutes, as the weird relativist neo-progressives often claim…if , say, saving the beauty of forests from deforestation to make way for prosaic housing developments for consumerists , promoting a civilization that no longer has any corporate greed is somehow supposedly not to be thought of as objectively , absolutely right , but merely “right to us” (to use the popular relativist misnomer phrases) or merely right from a mere “perspective” or “opinion” …then why freaking bother with all the activism for such goals , if such goals are not ultimately right , but merely “right to ” or “right for” , or mere opinion ???!

    One of the greatest shams in the history of various memes that have been diseminated in history is the sham that ambiguity/ambivalence & equivocation in thought is somehow liberating to the mind, in some sort of ennobling , insightful sense . Such muddled thinking is NOT and never has been . There is NO foolishness to consistency , and it is flexibility/ and ambivalence that indeed are the hobgoblin of small minds . Internal consistency and the striving for total perfection (and settling for nothing less ) is of course what integrity demands , and indeed is always the right approach !

    It is what separates authentic , genuine idealism from the trendy, fauxhemian , MTV /CNN era bastardized counterfeits of it …the latter being the stock and trade of the “multifaceted” (i.e. duplictious) sorts of people who seek to dilute the manifestation of values , the people who settle for some mere balance between good and bad …such balance being (to borrow a phrase from H.L. Menecken ) ‘respectibe mediocrity’ .

    The goofy outlook of relativism, along with the sort of equivocal thinking called lateral thinking which tends to go along with it : a style of thinking which prizes open -endedness, equivocation/ fast and loose comparisons , obsfucation , whimsical and idiosyncratic thinking , is already status quo.! It is no wonder that such a so-called “counterculture” given over to such wrongheaded tendencies would be quite easily assimilated to the television and advertisment- driven mystification of contemporary mass culture and consumerism .

    A truly radical sort of alternative to the current malaise of consumerism and conformism could be found not in the baggage of the MTV era , hackeysack and yin/yang tattoo subcultures , but instead in taking an unabashedly quaint, antiquated, pedantic , linear and absolutist approach …one that does NOT hesitate to say, for example , that deforestation which is done for the sake of expanding yuppie suburbia , is totally wrong (NOT “wrong to us” or “wrong from a perspective” or “opinion” ) and that, say, white racism , domestic violence against women, and a host of other societal injustices is totally wrong period and, moreover, that it is an *absolute Truth* (and NOT a mere perspective) that such injustices should NOT be allowed to continue , and should NEVER have happened, in the first place ….and that we should NOT accept any mere balance between such injustices /such examples of the evil of cultural entropy , but should instead indeed seek to stamp out and reject such injustices and societal flaws completely and insist that there be indeed perfection instead . Perfection is NOT a dirty word . Words and phrases like like ‘ambivalence’, ‘ambiguity’ , ‘internal contradiction’ , ‘balance’ signify what is indeed dirty .

    So-called “shades of gray” are NO substitute for integrity, accuracy and Truth . Virtue requires no supplement from murkiness . Hence there should never be any give and take between virtue and that which is murky and/or crass .

    A true societal revolution can happen when people completely *rid* their minds of equivocation/ doublethink /and all ambivalence , and all that is capricious .

    • I think I both agree and disagree with you, Jason. I agree about the sometimes kitschy nature of the current spiritual counterculture, which in many ways has made a fetish and a shtick out of its own trendy non-mainstream-ness, and which has thus in many cases flirted with or fallen victim to being hijacked by the very branding-based, hip, corporate consumer values and worldview it ostensibly opposes. I also agree, to an extent, with your criticism of the problematic relativism embedded with the movement. I remember a critical article that appeared a few years ago in, I think, no less a quasi-official organ of the movement than EnlightenNext magazine, and which took the new spirituality to task for its ultimately goofy, spineless, morally center-less nature. The writer of the piece, himself deeply involved in these alternative spiritualities, pointed out that many members of the current scene, and especially those influenced by neo-advaita, would be unable to do something like stage a serious march or protest in the fact of real resistance of the political and police/military sort, because their very guiding principles and childish sensibilities would lead many of them to rationalize an easygoing and preemptive surrender as “non-resistance,” while many others would (in this fantasy-scenario caricature of the situation) get distracted during the march against oppression and sit down to start playing music or games or whatever.

      So, again, I see and sense all of this, and your critique resonates with me. At the same time, I think there’s more of real substance going on in the current counterculture than just these things. As I said in the main essay here, the current incarnation of the spiritual counterculture will eventually play out its hand and dissolve into the cultural aether, and its explicit framing of itself as, in fact, a counterculture may in fact be a tactical mistake that will hasten this demise. But the impulses behind the movement are, as they were in the sixties and seventies, really profound and substantial in terms of their recognition and rejection of a dominant cultural-economic-political-civilizational paradigm that is pointedly and deeply diseased. And this golden thread, as it were, represents a vein of real power and enduring value.

  6. Yes, it is doomed, *if* one is referring to the sort of “spiritual” counterculture that likes ambivalent /ambiguous thinking and bastardized NEO-psychedelic kitsch .

    However, there are alternatives, which are NOT doomed . Such as the intentional community known as Arcosanti , which was pioneered by the visionary architect Paolo Soleri, in the Arizona desert, (and apparently is flourishing quite well) and other back to the land experiments and efforts at authentic ways of life which do not receive much fanfare . There are alternatives to the mass culture state of affairs which are indeed NOT ironically as muddled and kitschy as the mass culture state of affairs itself .

  7. Response to the post of Tr0798 ,

    In regard to the claim that in the 1960’s much of the West was ‘still in Fundamentalist Christian mode’ , that claim is indeed quite historically NOT accurate .

    In the 1960’s and previous eras, Fundamentalist protestantism was far from being as widespread as it is today, not very widespread in America , let alone the rest of the globe. The spread of fundamentalist VERSIONS of Christianity was a later development .

    In the 1960’s and earlier eras , mainline Protestant denominations tended to outnumber fundamentalist organizations …mainline protestant groups like the Methodists, Lutherans , Episcopalians , Lutherans , Congregationalists, Anglicans in Canada and the UK , the sort of groups that tended to be liberal as regarding theology : accepting the higher criticism of the Bible , theistic evolution , a LACK of the disdain for Eastern religions ….*characteristics* that were quite different from the sort of characteristics fundamentalists tend to embrace .

    It was the rise of fundamentalist radio and televangelism, evangelical groups like Campus Crusade, evangelists and pundits like Francis Schaeffer, as well as the Dispensationalist Hal Lindsay, the infiltration of the Republican party by what has been dubbed “the Religious Right” of the Robertson /Fallwell/ Tim La Haye mileu , and other factors that led to a spreading of fundamentalism to wider areas of the populace in the mid to late 1970’s , and further still in the 1980’s and 1990’s . The internet with its oodles of fundamentalist and evangelical websites has been spreading fundamentalism even further . Prior to recent eras (with a few exceptions such as the Dutch Reformed and hardline Calvinists among some branches of Presbyterianism ) fundamentalism tended to be more of a phenomenon of the American South and Midwest , apparently, without much traction in the Northeast or California , let alone in Europe where liberal and yet other forms of scholarly , NON-fundamentalist Christianity, flourished . Fundamentalist/ Evangelical missionaries have been gaining traction, in more recent decades, in Europe and elsewhere and gaining proselytes in some of those areas .

    Historically fundamentalism, in terms of the historical development of Christianity, has been something of a fairly new phenomenon , when one considers that, aside from in having little precdent in the Bible itself (Jesus and the apostles were NOT fundamentalists) ,many of the fundamentalist doctrines …as well as cultural sensibilty was *not* promoted by many of the early Church Fathers (though some fundamentalists have tried to tweak the interpretation of the writings of Irenaeus , nor the ancient creeds of the early ecumenical councils of the Christian Church , and certainly are contrary to what a number of the early Protestant Reformers taught ….such as Martin Luther , who did not accept all of the epistles found in the later Protestant version of the New Testament as being authoritative or apostolic ..Luther expressed doubts about the canonicity of Hebrews , and unfortunately rejected the epistle of James (which happens to be one of the better New Testament epistles) , to give but some examples, and differed with them considerably on some other key doctrines .

    Fundamentalism was largely popularized by a Presbyterian Clergyman named B.B. Warfield who together with some like minded pundits , circulated a series of texts to various Christian congregations in the late part of the 19th century which he titled ‘The Fundamentals ‘ (hence the name ) . It was largely an ANTI-modernist and often ANTI-intellectual sort of agenda that Warfield and his cronies were seeking to perpetuated , one that claimed, in rather revisionist fashion. that particular doctrines that Warfield and company promoted were somehow the mantle of historic Christianity , when they were not (at least not to nearly the extent that Warfield maintained).

    As for the brand of thinking as to eschatological doctrine called dispensationalism —with its tendency to offer skewed interpretations of letters to the Thessalonians and the Olivet Discourse in Luke, to promote the doctrine of a so-called “rapture” (a word that like the phrase “age of accountability” , is nowhere to be found in the Bible text) that too was a historically new phenomenon , despite the faulty claims of Thomas Ice and others from that movement to claim otherwise . Dispensationalism was promoted by a man who propounded it first to small circles amongst largely his sect called ‘The Plymouth Bretheren ‘ , by a breakaway clergyman named John Nelson Darby. It did not get much traction in terms of popularity, in protestant circles, until an American named C.I.Scofield wrote a Bible “commentary” called the Scofield Reference Bible , which contained footnotes (which were chock full of comments on what the Bible verses supposedly meant in terms of eschatology, that reflected dispensationalist presuppositions) . C.I.Scofield with the so-called “reference Bibles” and various dispensationalist homespun so-called seminaries like the Dallas Theological Seminary—helped to spread dispensationalism to much larger adherents in the early decades of the 20th century, although it did not nearly as much momentum in protestant circles until dispensationalist popular writers such as Hal Lindsay and dispensational television evangelists like Pat Robertson , Fallwell, and Jack Van Impe popularized the movement much further in the 1970’s and 1980’s .

    • Indeed, the explosion of conservative Christianity as we see and think of it today in its prominent cultural role didn’t occur until the 1970s. Although rumblings of it were evident in the 60s, that was in fact an age where a sense of American Christianity being on its last legs was prevalent, and expectations of some sort of mass secularization were rampant. The counterculture with its exotic spirituality of course stood in opposition and counterpoint to this, but American Christianity at large hadn’t yet found its (very unfortunate) new stance and voice, and appeared cornered and doomed.

  8. Here is a link to the Arcosanti community . It offers more promise that many of the typical countercultural outlets .

    It does NOT have that kitschy, mundane typical tye-die , hackeysack kicking sensibility to it :

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.