Planet Soul

Personal Style Is a Spiritual Practice

Your outer self shouldn’t be an afterthought

Mitch Horowitz
Human Parts
Published in
9 min readMay 13, 2020

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A photo of a person holding a mirror that reflects the blue sky. The mirror is covering their face.
Photo: Chrystofel Rico/EyeEm/Getty Images

Much of today’s spiritual culture asks us to embrace principles of nonattachment and nonidentification. We typically hear that the material world is an illusion or samsara, which the seeker should learn to disregard, and that what matters most is what we cannot see.

I don’t believe that gets at the real story of our lives. I don’t think it encompasses the nature of our existence. I believe the principle of nonattachment places an unnatural demand on the seeker. It’s like a carrot forever dangled in front of them; we feel like we’re running toward it without getting any closer.

Tradition or habit?

All religions attempt to codify and structure our relations with the ineffable. Every religion emerges from its own locality and time period, reflecting the civic, legal, and social needs of a particular population. All the great religions offer universal lessons, but they also bear traits of the cultural prejudices, attitudes, and circumstances from which they arose. Hinduism and Buddhism give us many of our modern ideas about nonidentification and nonattachment but grew from times and places where individuals were almost certain to live and die within the social caste they were born into.

The human situation was not entirely different within Hebraic and Christian variants of religion in the Mediterranean basin. These ancient religions were structured to give solace to people who, within a given cultural and social order, had few prospects of escaping the gravity of caste, rank, class, tribe, or gender.

Many ancient people, especially those in caste-based societies, found a sense of self-worth almost exclusively in extraphysical values and in deemphasizing attachment to worldly goods or rank. But this doesn’t necessarily comport with how we live today. Nor are those values absolutes of human nature. I believe that the highest role of humankind is to be generative: to be co-creators within our sphere of existence, in matters both visible and unseen.

Why are you here?

I believe all self-expression is sacred. Scripture tells us that God created the…

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Mitch Horowitz
Human Parts

"Treats esoteric ideas & movements with an even-handed intellectual studiousness"-Washington Post | PEN Award-winning historian | Censored in China