A Newly Burning Brand

“I’m X, Y, and Z” some religious person or spiritual seeker will exclaim proudly, touting their supposed morals and ethics.. However they are neither X,Y, or Z in your humble opinion – yet if you call them on it they get very offended. You yourself are offended that they are making such statements while clearly not living up to what they profess.

We’ve seen this before, with gun-toting Lightworkers, compassionate Christians who want homeless people dead, and so on. People are very emphatic about who they are while being absolutely nothing like they say they are.

So are they just lying? Well, it would seem as much, but drifting among various conversations I’ve had and heard, I’d like to suggest something different. These people have a brand.

A brand. A set of labels and images and so on that define them. It doesn’t mean they are these things, but they say they are. The human equivalent of a corporation touting their love of the environment while pumping toxic waste into it, or financial responsibility being part of their image until the CIO suddenly flies to a country without an extradition treaty.

At least with corporations we have the comfort of assuming people in them are lying to us, but I think these “spiritually branded” people who don’t live up to their brand may be serious. They may actually think they’re what they say they are.

Why do I say that? Am I going soft? No, they’re still destructive assholes, but we can learn from them. In fact I think I have a pretty good idea of how we got here.

Ages ago, “personal branding” was all the rage in the career world. Initially I kind of liked it because it felt like a vision quest – figure who you are and sum it up! I’ll even argue that early on it was a good thing as it helped people figure out how to communicate in their careers!

But of course, it became corrupted into bullshit-spewing self-marketing. The internet didn’t help because it encouraged everyone to brand themselves. Start this youtube channel! Start this podcast! Do this etsy store! Try this on your LinkedIn. We all got branding dumped down our throat, and even if we didn’t respond we saw all those people who found brands and wondered . . .

Now slather all of this on top of religion and spirituality, which has had PLENTY of inaccurate branding over the ages. The result is something far worse than the usual religions toxicity. We’ve taken the problems humanity has always had and added market-tested, keyword-enabled branding on top of it. It’s somewhere between marketing and toxic fandom.

So when you tell someone they’re a religious hypocrite and they insist they aren’t with buzzword bingo, remember this is branding. This is a lie people are so used to telling it’s not a lie.

(As how we deal with it, well, that I gotta put some thought into . . .)

– Xenofact

Xenofact’s Xine #5 is Out!

It’s here!

Hear how I visited a Bigfoot museum! Hear me rant about how people want to save imaginary children to avoid helping real ones . . . or anyone. Read about how the I Ching helped me reduce stress (really). Plus I’m putting my mashup art in each issue, so you get some wild graphics as well!

Rounds up Xenofact’s blog posts from February 2024 to April 2024! Available in print and PDF form (Print at ko-fi.com) (free PDF – itch.io or ko-fi.com).

A Dialog Across Time

A large part of mystical practices is about correspondences among things. Omens and runes, Sephiroth and Hexagrams, all are about a the deep orders and patterns of the universe. Then again what is mysticism of all stripes but the idea of an involved, deep, living universe?

Of course anyone who’s dealt with correspondences in such practices knows there are two things you can count on:

  • A history of charts, graphs, grids, lists, and so on trying to understand these correspondences.
  • People not agreeing on these things currently or throughout history. Sometimes quite pointedly.

It’s strange, isn’t it? Anyone who’s read a tarot or cast Hexagrams has had those moments where things just line up. You know you’ve stumbled onto something deep, something real where all those correspondences and commentaries line up . . .

. . . but also there’s so much out there talking about those correspondences. From online arguments to ancient commentary it’s a bit overwhelming.

How are we to deal with all these writings on correspondences over time? As a person interested in the I Ching, I’m used to hearing people discuss commentaries by various authors centuries or even aeons apart. I even have translations of two specific commentaries on the I Ching, one for meditative practices, one for organizational practices. It takes a certain level of commitment to decide you want to detail good organization advice for sixty-four different hexagrams.

But needless to say these historical commentators aren’t always on the same page. Or the same book. It can be confusing or even distressing, as you wonder if someone has gone off the rails or is just to deep for you or is using a regional or timebound reference.

Over time I’ve come to think of all these commentaries and charts, conflicting as they may be, conflicting as their creators may be, as an effort over time. We’re all trying to figure out how the universe works, how the parts line up, to find the structure behind reality. They may not agree, but maybe by study we can find more about just how it all lines up. We can be part of the dialogue, but that’s going to take us stepping up, reading, contemplating, and thinking.

Nothing is right. Nothing is perfect. You could write the most complete and accurate book on mystical correspondences ever, but how much of it might be bound by time, place, and cultural references? But a dialogue? A dialogue is something that can go on over time.

We can even be part of it.