The Intersection Between Spirituality and Conspiracy


Photo courtesy of Angela Major, Wisconsin Public Radio.

-Peter Canova 

Covid-19 is beginning to enter its final stage as many begin to get vaccinated while socially distancing from one another. However, one particular phenomenon has become a prolific part of the pandemic. Both misinformation and weariness of expert opinion has shaped the way many look at both getting a vaccine and even wearing a mask, this subset of people have become a part of a movement that is being dubbed, “Conspirituality”. 

In the Journal of Contemporary Religion, Charlotte Ward and David Voas explore “Conspirituality” and its effects as a movement. This movement is described as a combination of “New Age (with its positive focus on self)” and “conspiracy theory (with its negative focus on global politics)”. They describe this phenomenon as a “a rapidly growing web movement” that links both the idea of autonomy and skepticism of elite and scientific claims.

One such media figure, who labels themselves as a “spiritual life coach” has a large social media following of 303,000 followers. He goes by the instagram handle @philgoodlife and has not only spread his ideas about spirituality, but discusses both skepticism of “elites” and experts.

He labels himself in his Instagram biography as, “The Cosmic Medium”, and many of his videos talk about spirituality, the importance of self responsibility, and other motivational style rhetoric. With such a large and devoted fan base, philgoodlife has been able to reach out to many who need/want this kind of content. However, this particular subculture seems to bleed into a sort of conspiratorial conversation about the legitimacy of masks and a vaccine during the COVID-19 pandemic. Philgoodlife’s rhetoric disguises much of this discourse by focusing on an individual’s “sovereignty”.

Gonzalo Camprecios Gari, a 2020 graduate from Fitchburg State is a supporter of this kind of content. He explained that, “I believe his view on the pandemic is very much based on ideas that are also important in the spiritual community: the importance of thinking critically, not giving your power away, and holding yourself responsible for the decisions you make in life”. Here, Mr. Camprecios Gari explained the intersection between both the spiritual and pandemic content.

Philgoodlife’s instagram has a plethora of videos that go into this idea of mixing both spirituality and conspiracy. In a post on Nov. 20, 2020, Phil explains, “If you happen to be walking around without a mask and someone accousts you, they are in the wrong…you have the right to believe what you believe”. This particular mask conversation comes up a lot in his posts, but what is even more interesting is this topic of autonomy during the pandemic. 

Daniel Collins, a senior at Fitchburg State has witnessed some of these ideas floated around on social media. Collins expressed his concern, stating that, “It’s not only dangerous to themselves but also other people who don’t have the same beliefs… if you’re not wearing a mask you are endangering other people”. He continued this train of thought, arguing that, “If you’re not wearing a mask, you’re not allowing other people to have the same freedoms of wanting to be safe, you’re taking that away from them”. 

Philgoodlife’s discussion is continued in a March 9th post. He starts his conversation by discussing the idea that people will force their opinion onto you. Phil states that people are, “just projecting their own negativity, insecurity, fear onto me… your sovereignty is going to trigger the hell out of people”. There is a push on his platform that one must ignore the group, and question everything you hear: especially from people in power. 

Mr. Camprecios Gari added on to this idea of “Individual sovereignty” stating that it is important for people to continue, “holding your power and not giving it away in times when a lot of the information we get is manipulated by big tech companies and big Pharma”. When asked about how he feels about expressing his opinion about the pandemic, Mr. Camprecios Gari expressed that he has, “felt very passionate about expressing my opinion and I hope we all continue having an open dialogue about such a topic”. 

A study done by The Harvard Kennedy School of Misinformation asked 2,023 participants in March of 2020 their thoughts on the COVID-19 pandemic. The study found that, “over 29% of respondents agree that the threat posed by COVID-19 is being exaggerated, while more than 31% agree that the virus was intentionally created and spread.” This sort of thinking, the article states, is “founded in a deep distrust of experts and authority figures (e.g., scientists, political leaders)”.

Figures such as philgoodlife, suggest that “your sovereignty is going to trigger the hell out of people”, however, the danger of this notion is described in the studies findings. The review states that, “Given the transmissibility of COVID-19, these beliefs are dangerous even if only a fraction of Americans succumbing to them ignore best practices, such as social distancing”.