August [6] 2008

Distilling The Essential From The Special

[By Art Rosengarten. First published in The MetaArts Magazine, 2003]

To be a Tarot-based Buddhist Jungian–a ‘Tabugian’ [‘ta-BOO-ghee-en’]–is to be an interactive and spontaneous blend of essential teachings.  By comparison, one-way belief systems like fundamentalist religion, stern father-figures, and hard science (anointed by the dictum of ‘either/or’) no longer hold sway in a pluralistic metaverse where personal and collective identity evolves with increasing velocity towards differentiation, cross-fertilization, specialization (particularization), and eclecticism. 

The advent of the guru import industry of the 1960s, 70s, and 80s in North America and Europe saw thousands of bright and earnest spiritual seekers (bored baby-boomers looking for meaning) experimenting with substitute orthodoxies while hoping to find The One “one-way” school that carried a formula that actually worked, had a certain sexiness or “brand-ability,” and required some thinking before joining. Powerful and exotic teachings appeared during this mini-Rennaissance, which, in retrospect, served an important “bridging-function” to the meta-ethic of today. Though things today have morphed into results not entirely predicted by yesterday’s trends.

Often these first offerings were purged of their essential psycho-cultural native soil and made to exude a certain “export quality mysticism” befitting the American fascination for neat tricks, handsome faces, and suburban rebellion. Notes Jungian author James Hillman:

In the East the spirit is rooted in the thick yellow loam of richly pathologized imagery—demons, monsters, grotesque goddesses, tortures and obscenities…But once uprooted and imported to the West it arrives debrided of its imaginal ground, dirt-free and smelling of sandalwood!”  (Re-visioning Psychology, p. 67)

Debriding the hidden forces has served Western capitalism’s great genius for manufacturing. Essence, it concluded correctly, would be hell for mass production because, by its very nature, it is intangible, unknown, and unseen. Form, on the other hand, required only ingenuity, engineering, and due dilligence. Form works wonderfully well in studios, laboratories, factories, ad campaigns, and academic institutions, especially when there is sufficient incentive.  If it looks the part, it can play the part, capitalism reasons, though toxic Janey-dolls and tainted cans of Chinese dog giblets have recently thrown this assumption back on itself. 

In the emerging Meta Age of today, former “One Way” stalwarts like General Motors, Major League Baseball, and Jesse Jackson, have lost “fan base” of new generations due mostly to the blue and mangled extremities they’ve suffered from years of shooting themselves in the foot. Today’s “market-tested spirituality,” much like yogurt sections in the supermarket and American teenage “theme-camps,” favors high variety, mix-and-match “menu-selectivity,” and bright-colored wrappings; towards these ends, it has added a vibrant array of spiritual nuance to 21st century yearnings. By contrast, when Mark Twain joked slightly more than a century ago “Give me heaven for the climate, hell for the company”— today one rightly asks, “Why stop at two?”



Today it appears like there actually is “something new under the sun.” With hardly a giggle, postmodernists are free to express, espouse, even “invent” (construct) unique identities from purely blended, “integrationist” platforms. Old barriers between system, style, and semantic have melted away when redefining precisely who we are in the service of this new breed of postmodern pantheism. Philosophically, for instance, one may now fashion oneself as ‘Qabromanterian’ (Qabalistically-inspired Romantic Presbyterian),Gaysuflåtonist’ (Homosexual Sufi Platonist), or even, ‘Blastro-Fartographer’ (Blind Astro-Cartographer with gas) that is, if one wishes to. That is the key.

No longer must we adhere to native birth identity for defining Who we are, How we recreate, and What we believe, as the new ethic now tugs at our sleeve, insisting—“For heaven’s sake dude, why NOT go ‘Pastafarian’ (Italian Rastafarian),or even blinking ‘Squeajewnaut’ (Squeamish Jewish Astronaut)?” After all, this is the age of blending forms.  Such are the new 21st century gurus. Should one still have zero interest in upgrading “soul brand” or blending belief, he or she may simply remain, hopelessly, as they say,  ‘Sub-Reptile’ (Subdued Republican Gentile), and be satisfied in doing so.

Strict lines that formerly demarcated the “nomenclature of belief” now blur like vegetarian catfish soup.  “Blending gurus,” once unheard of in the monotheistic fatherland, has become a liberating exercise in the making of selfhood that now paves the way to the Holy Grail of the Meta Age—“designer consciousness.” It’s new motto, of course: “If you can slice it, you can dice it!”

Yet the phenomena is not without precedence. Decades ago the zany American political arena began to slice-and-dice the “demographics of subcategory” ala Pro-Choice Rockefeller Republicans, Southern White Reagan Democrats, and, of course, Libertarian-leaning World Wrestling Federation Independents. Certainly, the once pithy 60s slogan “Do your own thing” never quite imagined we would evolve to the spiritual equivalent of “fifty-seven channels and nothing’s on.”

Sociologically, for example, the singles dating landscape has made a high art form of what may be termed: ‘entitled particularity’—e.g. “Extremely short and freckled white pagan harpsichordist looking for same in a mate.” Cable television has given our once “unprogrammed” imaginations the market-researched fodder of agnostic entertainment executives on a short leash.  We look for guidance from image-makers finger-painting from the temples of Hollywood over shooters and age demographics. Imagination, oddly, has become the single most coveted port of entry in the postmodern free market.

Science and technology do their parts as well.  New generation biopharm researchers now labor feverishly for ever more target-intensive/symptom-differentiated concoctions—ala “relieves upper-left shoulder morning pain in pollen allergic forklift operators.” Specificity is the new gold standard, “made to order” and “right for ME” it’s soft mantras. If unable to extract the grail of “designer consciousness,” the new science of neurochemistry proudly extols the next best thing: “designer drugs.” Indeed, as the general boundaries of worldly existence have been cast, the emerging frontier now sizzles in search of the specific and the special “high” (“a relative emotional response with respect to baseline perception of subject”  it notes in the fine print disclaimer).



Technically-speaking, Tabugians are neither specialists nor “particularists” despite their blended zeitgeist (or just maybe, because of it!). Rather, they are “broad stroke” integrationists, and look primarily  to the essentials, not the specifics, for direction.  All three Tabugian legs–Tarot, Buddhism, and Jungian Psychology– dig down beneath the superficia of difference to expose the wellspring of sameness. Perennial philosophers call it ‘Universal Consciousness’ but the C word is loaded with allusion and hard to pin down.  It’s not that Tabugians don’t care about Katie Holmes or CSI Miami etc. in a sour disapproving modes particularly—to the contrary, we simply observe “It” with a passing glance as part-and-parcel of “reality” and then we try to get refocused on other ways of dealing (see IDEAS articles, “Reality; & Reality 2.0).  Nonetheless, “we” (and I use this term editorially, as to date, there is actually only one official Tabugian on the planet, as far as we know, and I’m damn proud of it too!) regard the current trend towards differentiation and specialization as dubious, delusional, and flawed.



But why? Doesn’t greater differentiation generate more possibilities to play with?

The answer is simple: yes & no. The new ethic dabbles in proliferating the “subnouns of reality,” not in transforming the “gerunds of experience.”  Specialization, upon closer inspection, is about differentiating the content of reality, not advancing the process; specialization inspires a widget world of pre-form thingness, but it misses the essential penetration, activation and transformation of human awareness and experience.  Particularizing is simply an apparatus to slice-and-dice the known, changing apples to applesauce, mangos to chutney.  Essentials, critically, are not really touched in the process.

Without question, particularizing has tremendous short-lived appeal; hybrid possibilities of ‘garbage in’ can now generate new and improved combinations of ‘garbage out’. After all, high technology (to its credit) makes garbage-collecting extremely efficient, attractive,and profitable, vacuum-packing STUFF into snappy, polymerized containers at a quarter of the cost. Yet, in the final analysis, it IS “nothing new under the sun” thinking (like deja vu)“all over again!”  Don’t believe me? Try punching the words “new and improved” or “totally original” into your search engine and jot down everything you get…

The problem is the world is awash in recycled garbage and it doesn’t look, feel, stack, or smell very pretty. Re-wrapped and aerosoled solutions are not sufficient to transform what we call the “intractables” that plague the human condition and its brave new world—violence, poverty, narcissism, gridlock on the 405 etc.  The Buddhists reduce such intractables to their root causes: hatred, greed, and delusion.  And likewise Tabugians cry out for real change: “We don’t need no stinkin’ chutney!” they shout, believing boldly that YES indeed there can be something new under the sun, “process-wise” on planet E. 



For a truly new creation to grow wings, for an apple to become an orange, for a person to become an individual, an individual to become enlightened, a society to generate well-being, and a globe to be transformed, a magician’s touch of true creativity is required. The basic meta-ingredients of essential wisdom must be skillfully aged to perfection, blended, and properly cooked, not merely sliced, diced, and repackaged. Under such conditions, something truly fresh, nutritious, and original will likely emerge. This is real transformation. This is qualitative change. This is what Tabugians ultimately seek.


Please comment below if you would like to become THE SECOND TABUGIAN in the world [or if you believe this insane heresy should be banned from the internet immediately].




4 Responses to “THE NEW GURUS”

  1. Voxx Says:


    Hi Art,

    Great stuff my friend. Funny and clever.


  2. An extremely insightful and thought-provoking piece, but nothing less than what I would expect from Dr. Art. Particularly insightful are the comments concerning Buddhism. It never ceases to amaze how core Buddhist concepts are dumbed down and re-packaged by contemporary guru-promotional speakers. Thanks again, Dr. Art!

  3. James Wells Says:

    I loved the piece about the short freckled pagan harpsichordist. Made me laugh out loud, only because I see such silliness all the time in queer publications here in Toronto. Perhaps we could just be Being.

  4. Duff Says:

    Rare indeed is it that anyone does any REAL magic. Thanks for the very interesting article.

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