Spirituality & Intellectual Property Rights
by Christine Hall
It only figures that New Age spirituality would have to grapple with the very modern issue of intellectual property rights. Sometimes the cases are downright silly and of little or no consequence. At other times, severe blocks are put in the way of serious spiritual research and study.
The disciplines that fall under the broad heading of New Age run the gamut from the ridiculous to the sublime. At one end of the spectrum are the bliss ninnies who are always willing to embrace the latest fads dreamed-up by a new breed of snake oil salespeople who’ve learned that there’s a rich mother lode of suckers to be mined in the New Age. At the other end are serious students of the psycho-spiritual sciences who are seeking credible ways to connect the ancient wisdom of the Egyptians and Asians with our latest understanding of sciences like chemistry, psychology and physics.
In the first category falls people like Jach Pursel, who’s build a formidable industry on channeling the non-physical entity “Lazaris,” and releasing this material as books and audio tapes. Lazaris, it seems, is an enlightened being who wants to give humanity the necessary tools to help us to evolve spiritually before we destroy ourselves. He’s chosen Mr. Pursel to be his only spokesperson, and has protected that connection with a copyright. Anyone other than Pursel who claims to be speaking for Lazaris is lying, and in violation of copyright laws.
As silly as this may be, it’s pretty harmless stuff. The Lazaris material is full of fairly serviceable and rather benign spiritual platitudes, and the gullible could do much worse – like get sucked-in by the next Jim Jones. No one gets hurt here, some lost souls find a purpose for their lives and Pursel keeps himself off the dole while offering employment to a few people in the process.
This is counter-balanced by more serious New Age writers who protect their material so thoroughly that others can’t continue research in the same vein without invoking the wrath of a host of lawyers.
I first became aware of this characteristic of the New Age community back in 1990. At that time The Keys of Enoch by J. J. Hurtak was all the rage. In this rather strange book, the writer is taken up into a spacecraft by the Biblical archangel Metatron, who reveals to him some rather arcane connections between the physical make up of the universe and our own spirituality. Although the premise might seem like something out of Star Wars, the tome is filled with some pretty high level science, with attempts to explain how modern physics effects our spiritual lives.
The book was a sensation, and spawned classes and workshops devoted to its study in practically every city in the USA. In the midst of this phenomena, however, I began to hear reports that Hurtak was protecting his property rights with a vengeance. Anyone who attempted to publish material that attempted to expound upon or expand The Keys of Enoch material would be met with threatened lawsuits by Hurtak’s lawyers. It seemed that the archangel Metatron, who’s spoken to and through numerous people during the past millennium, doesn’t want anyone but Hurtak to disseminate the information found in The Keys of Enoch.
Since then, the situation has only worsened. The New Age, it seems, is filled with gurus who are overly protective of their followers and who will overreact at any perceived threat to their position. An interesting case in point would be the battles in federal court between Stan Tenen and the Meru Foundation against Dan Winter.
In this case, Dan Winter, a respected scholar on Sacred Geometry and Geomancy, ran afoul of U.S. copyright laws when he began using “flaming Hebrew letters” developed by Tenan in a thesis on the Golden Mean, a geometric formula often employed in religious architecture, and its relationship to the ancient Hebrew alphabet. This case resulted in a rather nasty court battle in which Tenen and the Meru Foundation accused Winter (and practically everyone associated with him) of plagiarism. Winter eventually lost the case, loosing by court order his web site, which had been considered by many to be an invaluable asset to the New Age community, and a considerable amount of money.
If there’s a solution to this merry-go-round of “don’t use my research as the basis for your continuing research,” I don’t know what it is. What I do know is that this mindset it putting a serious damper on broadening our knowledge on the connection between body and spirit, just when such knowledge is most needed. Nobody would deny that the likes of Tenen and Hurtak deserve copyright protection for their writings, but that shouldn’t stop others from expanding on that work.
What’s needed is for New Age publishers to develop something akin to the “open source” idea that’s worked so well for the Linux community within the software industry. The likelihood of that happening, however, approaches zero.
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