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.