We are in the Information Age, also known as the Digital Age, where a rapid shift has taken place from traditional industry to an economy based on information technology. The driving force behind this information revolution was the internet. In the early 1990s, the World Wide Web was created. We all know the story from there. There is no doubt whatsoever that the information age has changed nearly every part of society and this includes spirituality. Evolution, progress and expansion carry the seeds of contrast. This means that both upsides and downsides come with the territory. Today, I’m going to tell you what the major upsides and downsides are to spirituality in the Information Age.
First, let’s start with the upsides:
It is the spread of information since the beginning of time that has secured mankind’s rapid evolution and world dominance. We can debate about whether or not that is objectively a good thing at another time. Nevertheless, it is undeniable that the consciousness of mankind is expanding and expanding due to the fact that anything that anyone wants to know is just one click away. So many people have access to spiritual information that they would never have had access to before. And as a spiritual teacher, you can get your information to people who would never have been able to access your information before. If someone is desperate and in pain, information about how to get out of it can be one click away. It can be an incredible tool for good.
People used to be locked into just their own culture and just the spiritual beliefs of those people around them. This inhibited awareness. It led to extreme ignorance and also made it so people could not make up their own mind because they had no choices in terms of perspective to choose from. In the information age, people are more likely to be exposed to different ways of thinking, different beliefs and more choices. It might just be possible to take the best of what all spiritual paths have to offer.
We are able to connect with people whom we would never have connected to or met without the internet. This brings us closer and closer to unification. You could in fact see the information age as a bridge to a ‘group mind’.
Which is where a collective species develops unified telepathy. One function of this is where each individual knows what every other member of the species knows.
It used to be that gurus, shamans and religious leaders were the venue through which people gained access to the universe at large and/or God. The information age has removed gurus from their social pedestals. This has removed the intermediary between people’s physical and non-physical lives.
Anyone from the highest class to the lowest class of society as well as all races, and abilities and sexes has access to the same information, information that can transform their lives.
Business is much better and easier for people who deal in creating religious and spiritual products. They can be found from the comfort and convenience of home and shipped straight to your door. In other words, in the information age, there much more abundance in the spiritual way of life.
Spiritual teachers have to up their game. With the constant inundation of new teachers and different ideologies and conflicting opinions, spiritual teachers are constantly having to question themselves and evolve their teachings and hone them and get better and better at what they do.
People are exposed to good information coming from lots of different people and places, which is forcing them to expand their minds enough to see that good info can come from anywhere, even where you least expect it. People used to only accept information when it came in a certain package and from a person who looked a certain way. Because of this shift, the polarization and then integration process within humanity is happening at an exponential rate.
There are so many positive implications for globally organized and synchronized events from meditations to prayers to movements to alerts.
Now for the downsides:
There is an idea that the more teachers the better because we are all spreading great ideas and creating awakening more and more. This isn’t actually the case. The information age has flooded the market with teachers and everyone imagines themselves to have something relevant to teach. And everyone imagines themselves to be an influencer. This has created some serious problems.
First and foremost, anyone and everyone thinks it is their place to be a spiritual teacher. So many people suffer from the illusion that they are an expert simply because of all the information that they have ingested. And there is zero recognition of or respect for the authority of genuine spiritual teachers and leaders.
Second, competition in the spiritual field has become 100 times more intense than in the world of professional sports. Unless you want to work a day job and keep spirituality as a hobby, spirituality is also a business for healers and teachers etc. In a market that is flooded, competition is fierce. It is not the “positively changing the world together” type of atmosphere. It is “there is one expo and three book contracts from publishers this year and the only one getting booked or whose book is getting picked up is the one who can prove they have the biggest following”. This also opens the door for people who have terrible information but who are simply the best at marketing becoming the most influential spiritual figures. Did you know that Oprah is now more spiritually influential than almost every religious leader around the world except the catholic pope?
Third, it has created diffusion of teachings and movements instead of empowering existing ones. Today, many followers of spiritual teachers learn everything they can from a teacher and then at a certain point, imagine themselves to be good enough to teach. Back in the day, in order to amass a following, you had to be truly great at what you did and also a very strong leader. Today, people believe that all you need is a computer. So, often once followers of a spiritual teacher have learned everything they want to from a teacher, they then strike out on their own. They begin to compete with the original teacher by positing themselves as ‘the new teacher’, but using all of the same content. This would be like each of the twelve disciples of Christ learning all they could from Christ and deciding that they too are ‘Christs’ and claiming his teachings as their own and Matthew trying to make as big a name for himself as Jesus. This not only takes from Jesus instead of lends energy to his movement, it diffuses his teachings and allows disciples to skew them. As a result, the atmosphere between teachers and disciples has grown tense and distrustful.
Fourth, it has lent itself massively to the human ego. In a market that is saturated by not only many more genuine teachers, but also people who are not aware and not genuine teachers at all, seekers are now free to “teacher hop”. The spirituality of today, is a fast track to avoidance. The spiritual path is not an easy path. The path of awakening burns away the layers of the human ego… It separates you from it so that you can then integrate it. Many seekers have decided that they want awakening because they think it will lead them to comfort. This means, the second they get to a place of discomfort with a particular teacher or path, instead of face the parts of themselves that are in need of integration, they will simply avoid the discomfort and abandon the teacher or path for whatever teacher and path enables their comfort. They will go for one that feels the best. For example, lets say someone needs to become aware of what they are doing and why in order to make actual changes to their life. Their current teacher says that they have to do shadow work to discover this but this person afraid of seeing and feeling those things. In the past, this person would have heeded that advice and faced it. Today, they listen to another person on the internet say “you just need to focus only on what feels good and then your reality will become exactly that”. This is a much more appealing concept to the ego, which would like to stay comfortable. So, they abandon their teacher and path and join up with whatever challenges their ego the least. Now, more than ever the message spiritual teachers and leaders get is: Make me feel good or else I’m not a follower or supporter anymore and in fact, I might turn on you.
The spiritual field is wrought with confusion. Seekers now find themselves in an ocean of ‘professional opinions,’ many of which are completely and totally contradictory. And while this forces people to have to gain their free will and find their own personal truth, it has also created a kind of non-commitment, futility and disillusionment in the seekers.
No one is going to go to the top of a hill or a cave in a distant country anymore to find a teacher when they are already swimming in an ocean of teachers. People have become quite lazy in terms of spiritual practice. They have a “you come to me’ attitude as well as zero loyalty to a certain spiritual path and certain teacher.
In the information age, the spiritual field has a distinct split. The practice of spirituality and the business of spirituality. All teachers are forced in the modern era to have one foot in both. And what the business of spirituality requires is often a contradiction to spiritual practice itself.
The biggest spiritual teachers are now social media stars as well. The only way they get big anymore and create a following is a massive online presence. If you have no online presence, you don’t exist in the modern world. As a social media star, a spiritual teacher fades out of relevance if they are not constantly feeding into their online presence like every other social media star. This means, no more disappearing into a cave to meditate. And no matter what you do, you look like a narcissist because social media implies keeping your image and your information in front of people all day long.
Every spiritual teacher and leader throughout history has had people against them. Many have ended up dead. It comes with the territory. But in the information age, people opposing spiritual figures have as big a stage as the spiritual figures have. If you want to gain significance and get famous, you can do so. All you have to do is publicly go up against someone that other people care about. The press thrives on sensation and controversy. This means that slander campaigns against spiritual figures are enormous and can ruin lives. Positive information is not the only thing being spread on the internet. Also, there is no need for hate groups to put effort into meeting up in one location and they can connect from all over the world. They can be organized at a distance and constantly fueled. This has made the spiritual field even more dangerous. Security detail is now required for spiritual figures as if they were political figures or pop stars.
The downside of religious information spreading and religious groups gathering is evident. Extremist racist, sexist and dogmatic religious groups can now grow larger, spread more information and pose more of a threat.
In the information age, attention spans have decreased and decreased. People want spirituality and the incredibly complex practice and nature of awareness compressed into a two-minute sound bite. This is not possible. It is not real learning or personal transformation. This is not commitment to awareness. This is entertainment. This is the momentary drug like hit of inspiration.
Spirituality has become a trend, not a genuine committed path. In the information age, everyone wants to be ‘in the know’ and wants to be part of what the collective says in ‘in’. Spirituality is considered to be ‘in’. But this is surface spirituality. It is a façade. This is completely incompatible to the actuality of the path of awakening.
The information age can polarize, isolate and lead people further into ignorance. It can also unite, empower and lead people into awakening. I am sure that I (and even you) could find many more upsides and downsides to the impact of the information age on spirituality. But if you made it past the standard two-minute attention span, hopefully seeing these most beneficial and most detrimental aspects helped you to gain at least some awareness.