The role of pornography is obvious enough – it should titivate and excite. So it is with spiritual pornography. It should whet our appetite, fire up our imaginations, ignite desire for some preferred state, and promote a goal – Nirvana, moksha, salvation, peace, divine love, or whatever the pornographers think will excite the most. The actors should wear guru gear, maybe speak in soft tones, or maybe shock, depending on the audience and the goods being sold.
Soft spiritual pornography features images of people sat in the lotus position, with serene expressions on their faces. This is the money shot, and all that is required to attain this peaceful state is a $500 meditation course. Images will include ‘spiritual colors’ – pink, purple, violet. Freshly murdered flowers will surround the meditators featured in the money shot. And the imagination could easily extend this picture to include unicorns and fairies. Words such as ‘centered’, ‘blissful’, ‘compassion’ and ‘divine’ will be liberally scattered in the promotional text. Having attended the meditation course, with softly spoken instructors leading the way, the student returns home to find everything is exactly how it was before the course – an unhappy marriage, boring job, noise. The practice is ditched after a week, and the addict powers up their browser to look for something else.
Talk dirty spiritual pornography tends to be targeted at the chattering classes. Having got everything money, social position, education and career can deliver, such people often feel completely hollow. These people can afford to travel and attend ongoing workshops. The lead pornographer should be well educated and an engaging speaker. Workshop decor should be zen like in nature – no pinks or purples, just bare floor boards, maybe the odd worn Persian carpet, and a single bowl of freshly murdered flowers next to the leader when he or she speaks. The questions will nearly always reference existential angst and topics such as what ‘being’ is, emotional sensitivity, how to become more conscious, how to be mindful. Real issues like child abuse, violent partners, the lying and cheating involved in getting that promotion, or the overwhelming desire to inflict pain on sexual partners will never be raised.
XXX spiritual pornography is for the specialist – the person who believes that devotional obedience to a guru, even if it involves abuse, is the only solution. The guru should wear guru gear, and the more extreme the better. The disciple should accept that digging holes and filling them in again is absolutely necessary for his or her growth, and that public humiliation is good for the soul. The XXX spiritual pornographer makes big promises – moksha, enlightenment, and even immortality. Because the prize is so great, so the adherent must pay the highest price- their sanity.
Unfortunately, the simple, mundane, long-term work of gaining understanding is not particularly sexy. It would be very difficult to make a spiritual porno movie featuring John Smith reading Plato or Spinoza over a ten year period. And there is no obvious money shot, apart maybe when a new book arrives through the post. Such people tend to find each other and may have some level of dialogue to help each other out – but the freshly murdered flowers would be missing, and there would be no guru. Worse still such people tend to shed certainties as time progresses, and who the hell would want to watch that. Give me Susie does Sufism any day.