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January 29, 2022

Interview: Alan Clements, spiritually incorrect

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Alan Clements, Spiritually Incorrect

Spiritually Incorrect: Alan Clements

Byron Theatre | Friday 25 May | 7.30pm | $25–35

Blend Noam Chomsky, Lenny Bruce and Terrence McKenna and you have Alan Clements. Mandy Nolan spoke with the spiritually astute humourist ahead of his Byron show about spirituality, mindfulness and opium-laced cigars.

Mandy Nolan: What does it mean to be spiritually incorrect? Do you think all the great spiritual leaders probably would be deemed incorrect?

Alan Clements: To me, spiritual incorrectness is not a dogma – a thing. It’s a radical way of being, free – a courageous act of conscience, a liberated personal choice of shameless authenticity. It’s also having the bravery to resist servitude, conformity, and collusion – and all other ways of numbing down. As for great spiritual leaders? Remember when the crowd gathered outside John Cleese’s window when he played Jesus in the film Life of Brian. As they chanted, ‘Speak to us. Show us the way, Messiah,’ he comes out and declares, ‘You’ve got it all wrong. Don’t follow me. Don’t follow anyone.’ And they all chant back in unison, ‘Tell us how’. And he shouts back, ‘No! Nobody can show you the way. You’ve got to work it out for yourselves.’ Very spiritual, don’t you say?

MN: Who sets the standards? I take it there’s no regulatory body?

AC: The New Testament of spiritual correctness today is pretty much determined by what sells. The commercialisation of consciousness is big business. Mindfulness has become the performance-enhancing drug of choice for Google, American Express, Goldman Sachs and almost every other company on the Fortune 500. Even compassion has become a cash cow.

Who sets the standards? CEOs, publishers, agents, publicists, and even ghostwriters for wanna-be spiritual authorities hoping to translate their India experiences into bestsellers. Corporations and their cogs determine who gets known and who doesn’t, what gets published and what doesn’t, what’s authentic spirituality and what isn’t, what’s true and worthy of notice and what isn’t.

And the regulatory body is determined by profits driven by mind share, essentially how many followers you have on social media that like, love, share, tag and tweet you. It’s about the analytics of attention. It’s about commerce. Imagine Tony Robbins, Oprah, or Eckhart doing their gigs on a contribution basis? It’s about capitalism. It’s about money (and power too).

MN: Can you give me an example of maybe what it means to be spiritually correct?

AC: I was just in Melbourne where the infamous Archbishop George Pell will stand trial for his decades of ‘historical sexual violence’, mostly to children. Horrendous acts of cruelty in the name of God. Mind you, Pell is just one among 3,000 or more other Catholic priests accused of predatory sexual violence. An example of spiritual correctness would be for Pope Francis to break lockstep with his complicity with pedophilia and immediately close all Catholic churches worldwide, stating: ‘Something is gravely wrong in our understanding of the Spirit. Our priests will therefore undergo a mandatory long period of soul searching before offering others a place of safety to commune with the sacred.’

No joke intended. I’d suggest that all 3,000 priests come to Byron and enter into a long-term meditation retreat, interspersed with regular MDMA psychotherapist-assisted trauma-release work. That concludes with a heroic dose of Ayahuasca facilitated by a circle of the most enlightened mothers in the Shire.

Oddly, pointing this out is so spiritually incorrect that it’s almost criminal. But imagine for a moment if five per cent of all teachers at Waldorf achools worldwide were accused of sexual violence towards the students? Then what? I’m reminded of RD Laing’s famous words: ‘Insanity is a perfectly rational adjustment to an insane world’. And we wonder why things are screwed up.

MN: What is the most spiritually incorrect thing you have ever done?

AC: Ironically, after years of not smoking anything, from the day I entered the monastery in Burma and ordained as a Buddhist monk, I started smoking opium-laced Burmese cigars. Why? It was all I could do to survive – going cold turkey after a two-year cocaine, alcohol and pharmaceutical drug addiction in LA, where I had been living. I did my last line of coke five minutes before I ordained. The list goes on. I’ll save the best – most spiritually incorrect stories for my show.

MN: Do you ever feel dirty? Get a sense of guilt?

AC: For God’s sake, I choose to be celibate for four years as a monk, during prime time, no less, from age 28 to 32. And this was at a time that many of my contemporaries – most of Byron at the time – where with Osho at the Ranch getting enlightened through sacred sex. But guilt? Not really. Occasionally, I do find myself slightly annoyed that I didn’t profit from my meditative background – enough to buy a nice homestead here in Byron to avoid the global meltdown of industrial civilisation over the coming years.

MN: Sexuality has turned into a three-day non-orgasming marathon of spiritual engagement. Are we making sex too complicated?

AC: Yes, way too complicated for my taste. And who among us can tell us the ‘right way’ or the ‘spiritually correct’ way to Be. No two of us will hold hands in the same way, or kiss or make love in the same way. Who can tell us that an orgasm or a sustained non-orgasm is better. Should it be transpersonal or personal? Should it be Buddhist or Jewish? Should it be self-involved or should it be absent of self? Should I worry about mine, or my lack of one, or should I see myself as natural? Should I be thinking or should a real one take me beyond thought? Am I being spiritual when I restrain having an orgasm or am I avoiding my higher self? The ways in which we discriminate between this or that are endless. Seeking perfection is a full-time job, and a thankless one. You will always be graded by a lie: your own unwillingness to be you — human. Perfect has to be reinvented every moment.

Catch Alan Clement Uncensored in Spiritually Incorrect.

Tix  at byroncentre.com.au

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  1. Hardly understood any of this. The words seemed to make sense. Or else I am imposing my sense on their seeming lack of sense, which might be lacking sense. I guess sense is not the thing here, a democracy of sense, all sense is equal, allowable, engaged. On Laing, I had a passing interest, which was mostly confused, either my confusion or his intelligibilty unintelligible. He was a starter then, pretty well forgotten now. He seemed to believe that insanity was just a state of mind, and you say it’s a response to an insane world. I on the other hand would suggest we distinguish between a delusion and reality, in fact my life depends on that distinction. Of course of course we all have a different reality, so must allow for that. It’s a game.

  2. Consider mathematics. To start with, premises, then equations. Beyond complications, but even in the hardest problems to define, the acceptance that somewhere there is an answer with an equal sign, as we approach it in graduating cycles. Even in chaos, patterns. Were we to propose that 2 + 7 = – 42, we would be in disagreement . So Russell would question the notion of varying realities. We can differ on any number of things, including the nature of reality, as Wittgenstein did, but not really on its totality for all. If something is real and proven real, then that is it. And we depend upon that in every communication. Chomsky, the West’s best known linguist, is only fluent in English.

  3. Fascinating stuff but not convincing. I’m wondering what he defines as spirituality in order to be incorrect; he must have some belief in spirituality in order to judge it.
    In my experience of life I found that the sustained experience of nothingness was and is (for me) the most authentic experience possible.
    If I had to define spirituality that would be it… nothingness.
    Nothingness has to be infinite, boundless.
    If anything actually does existIf in an objective sense i.e definable empirically
    It by it’s nature has to begin somewhere.
    That somewhere must be in nothingness.
    My humble conclusion is therefore that nothingness is ‘spirituality’.

  4. I had to to a search on spirituality to get an idea about what the common definition was…sadly nothing concrete there. They are all over the place clutching at straws and no wonder if my definition is close to the money.
    What I do know is what it is not.
    Let’s say the world is divided; on one side is the objective empirically verifiable existence. On the other is the subjective world.
    Clearly spirituality if it is indeed (in my very humble view) nothingness. Then blind Freddy (sorry Freddy) can see it has to belong on the subjective side.
    No spirituality, or possibly a smidgen, on the hard core side of nature.
    Puts Hedonism ( the belief that nothing but objectivity exists) well and truely outside of the ‘spiritual’.
    So to be living spiritual incorrectness one must be a hedonist.
    Given what we know about Mr Clements I suggest he is defiantly a hedonist of the first order.
    Cheers and peace.

  5. Well I am a hedonist, Barry, would have to admit that. But rhe notion of objectivity and verification and empiricism and existence can all be linked, pwr se, as one thing, is either tautology or over-reaching adjectivication. Somehow in logic we look for definition, and there are a dozen words we could add to that. The world is coming out of the renaissance. We should be cautious. As for nothingness why not say zero, is there any difference beyound semantics?

    • As one searches for ‘something’ among the objects one gets lost and still without an answer continues the fruitless seeking.
      Missing that which is hidden.
      Frustrated he/she confabulates one among the confusion until he/she realises the folly in seeking that which is everywhere but cannot be found..

  6. I’ll place my bets on generosity and compassion as the best measure of one’s spiritual progress. That being said, it’s not so easy to stay rooted in the great mystery when one is leading or teaching others to find peace within. Quite a paradox, and one that AC is not ashamed to reveal.

  7. one may well ask if spirituality is ‘nothingness’ why is it so well advertised and manipulated into something else it is not. Or is ‘incorrect’.
    The simple answer is MONEY.

    But the question of how were or are we so fooled by it …
    is it a mere confabulation of the masses bored with hedonism…
    looking for something more than the mere temporary titillation of the senses;
    something sustainable with depth; something that is totally uplifting of the human spirit;
    something to rebalance our toxic emotions;
    something to fulfil our empty lives and replace the toxic crutches we currently rely on.

    Sadly we fall for it and confabulate that it is working and wonder why we are still miserably reliant on the physically destructive compounds we consume in the name of fun.
    And the endless boringly repetitive chasing of physical desire.
    Happily with dedication and perseverance some have ‘apparently’ managed to unravel the enigma.
    Hope springs eternal.

    • But for those who in Hedonism delight
      Find no solace in a pleasure free plight
      Offered by those who claim to see the light.

      Celibacy clearly isn’t for the Hedonist.
      Its progress is not though from resisting desire.
      That is a misunderstanding; for hundreds of years the truth was lost.
      Celibacy is not a means to an end.
      Its the end of a means.

      Now that is the enigma.

      • The enlightened man/woman is usually celibate.
        Not as a result of their practice necessarily
        But simply because they are in bliss and have no need for pleasure
        Being in a sustained blissful state of consciousness.

        Others seeking to be enlightened mistook their celibacy for a practice.
        When indeed it was not… it was that the inner bliss was way better than Hedonism.
        Wannabe saints practiced celibacy…well attempted to themselves and we see the mess, even today, of the results of that.


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