Combine a former Buddhist monk with Noam Chomsky, Lenny Bruce, and a hyper-spiritual Terence McKenna and you get a sense of Alan Clements, who will be performing what may be his final performance, a one-man show titled “Spiritually Incorrect,” at Wailuku’s Historic Iao Theater on Saturday, January 28.
A radical, passionate, eloquent former Buddhist monk, Alan has spent many years inspiring people to wake up to their own untapped creativity and unique sense of freedom and beauty beyond conformity – a world of radical self-honesty and bold authenticity, while challenging the often invisible chains of pretense, indoctrination and blind obedience.
A spiritual maverick, human rights activist, war journalist, and prolific author, Clements was described by Jack Healy, former director of Amnesty international, as “one of the most important and compelling voices of our time.” New York’s Village Voice lauded him as “a spiritually comedic provocateur,” whose performance “remains his preferred method of insurrection.”
He was diagnosed in April 2021 with a terminal heart condition. He currently resides at home in Hospice on Maui, while facing a 90% chance of having his aortic aneurysm rupture at any moment.
Alan has decided to forgo open heart surgery and present his “Spiritually Incorrect: Reborn” show on Maui. It will also be filmed as a pay-per-view live stream, and kept online for 24 hours, allowing people worldwide to watch this rare event.
“Much of the last two months have been difficult – feeling wobbly and out of sorts, often bedridden, weakened,” Alan reports. “Now, for the past month or so, I pushed myself like never before; walking the beach five miles a day, eating well and trying my best to keep intrusive thoughts and mind states away. I wonder if I’ll make it to the theater and deliver on my dream. This show, of the 250 or so I have given over the past 20 years, is by far the most important.”
“I want to create revolutionary magic with the audience, a psychedelic-like luminosity of the spirit that inspires new pathways of thinking and being – to break out – with our tears, laughter, and an irreverent playfulness that leaves the pandemic and all other forms of craziness far behind, even for ninety minutes – an exotic and even erotic, joyful respite from the existential storm of being embedded in this maddening miracle of life.”
Alan describes his upcoming event as “an uncompromising improvisational one person show covering the triumphs, tribulations and failures of a life of exotic, often maddening adventure.”
Clements was one of the first Americans to be ordained a Buddhist monk in Burma (Myanmar). His show will explore contemporary spirituality both East and West, long-term intensive meditation, universal human rights, dictatorship, indoctrination, psychedelic assisted therapy, war, genocide, the psychology of totalitarianism, eroticism, and the unstoppable power of love, freedom and being true to oneself.
“My show will be a bit of a poetic haunting hymn of intersecting stories,” he says. “At times Biblical, even unearthly, sometimes musical, or an auditory mandala of intersecting themes. It’s also a primordial scream at the absurdity of life. It’s my amen with a heart of hope.
“It’s also classical unrehearsed spoken word entertainment, something I call ‘activist theater.’ The night will be fun and entertaining in a sapiosexual kind of way. The more we can laugh and cry and just feel a momentary relief from these past three years of horrendous lockdowns, and the pornography of politics, and the overall bullshit, the better.
“I want to offer folks a chance to unbutton, get down, and provide, if so moved a collective catharsis, and not be a radical provocateur alone. I also want to invite a new language of solidarity that doesn’t make anyone wrong for their assholeness during the pandemic. Well, other than a few public figures, I feel compelled to skewer.”
Alan was first moved to adopt his improvisational monologues in 1996, after hearing Burma’s preeminent spoken word artist U Par Lay. At the time, U Par Lay was living underground producing a book of conversations with Burma’s Nobel Peace Laureate and revolutionary leader, Aung San Suu Kyi, who had just been released from six years of detention. She had invited several hundred activists to her home-compound in Yangon to celebrate Independence Day in defiance of Myanmar’s brutal dictatorship, which had long thrived on mass incarceration, torture and even genocide.
“Those daring activists who came out that day risked long tortuous prison terms and confiscation of their homes, businesses and often family members disappeared as well,” he recalls. “Midway through the ceremony, U Kyi Maung, my Burmese mentor and translator, told me, ‘we have a very special guest with us today.’ It was U Par Lay. This man, it was explained, was the Lenny Bruce of Burma – the country’s foremost comedic satirist. A man who had a long history of confronting indoctrination and Big Brother, with arrow-like wit and satirical genius.
“As it turned out, he had been incarcerated for six years of hard labor, pounding rocks twenty hours a day for his last performance that only mildly satirized the dictatorship. What he went onto say was remarkable. He said, ‘for six years I’ve been waiting for his moment to perform again. I know what I’m about to say is going to land me back in prison. So be it, it’s for freedom, our freedom together.’”
Two days later, U Par Lay was re-imprisoned for seven years with hard labor.
“Some time after that life-changing event, a vision was born that compelled me to expand my own parameters of activism to encompass a much more liberated expression as a spoken word performer; using irony, satire, humor and irreverence, as U Par Lay did, to elevate freedom and the power of universal human rights while confronting one’s own apathy, fear and indoctrination.
“So theater stages became my environments of choice to share my own brand of revolutionary spoken word for the next decade or so – my sacred spaces to explore a whole new dimension of life and art and performance that I called ‘activist theater’ as well as ‘existential entertainment,’ and what Noam Chomsky describes as the art of ‘spiritual self-defense.’
“The driving force of my performance is that we’re all in this together. The Asian spiritual version of freedom as the transcendence of self is not that relevant for me today. It’s more about the inseparable nature of our freedom rather than my freedom alone.
“So part of the theatrical ‘Spiritually Incorrect’ motif is to co-create a moment of original presence that’s never been done before where we can see ourselves in ways that are completely unscripted to ideas of how we think we should be.
“As in, no two of us will kiss in the same way, or hold hands in the same way, or laugh, or be intimate with another. It’s an original moment of freedom, uniquely our own – anarchy in liberated action, if you will, both tender and fierce; an attempt to further loosen the neurotic, often toxic tentacles of patriarchy, colonization and authoritarianism that are so often insidiously embedded in the psyche, unknowingly. And to state the obvious, drive the world further into madness, that so often becomes normalized under the marquee of forever wars, apartheid, pornography, and elitism.”
One of the first Westerners to document the mass murder and oppression of ethnic minorities by Burma’s military dictatorship, Alan will release his latest book “Aung San Suu Kyi From Prison – and A Letter To A Dictator” (co-authored with Fergus Harlow) the day of the Wailuku show.
“Aung San Suu Kyi has been wrongly accused of crimes she did not commit and sentenced to life imprisonment in solitary confinement in Burma and further tortured under hard labor,” he notes. “This book reveals the lies and distortions made against her, plus much more, along with a letter to her captor – the world’s foremost terrorist, Min Aung Hlaing, and his indoctrinated terrorist followers.”
Alan’s most recent books include the four-volume set “Burma’s Voices of Freedom: An Unfinished Struggle for Democracy” (co-authored with Fergus Harlow), “Extinction X-Rated – An Auto-fictional Dark Satire On Good and Evil” (composed during the pandemic, inspired by an LSD trip), and “A Future to Believe In – 108 Reflections on the Art and Activism of Freedom,” which is described as: “An iconoclastic blend of radical cultural commentary, edgy political punditry and provocative life-inquiry, this field guide for revolutionaries, and a model for a new society, is designed to liberate the human spirit – igniting gutsy transformation in one’s daily life and nonviolent political change around the world.”
He also recently released “Tonight I Met A Deva, An Angel of Love,” a children’s book with a foreword by the Dalai Lama (“this book by Alan Clements inspires people, young and old”), and “Facing Death: Alan Clements In Conversation with Reverend Bodhi Be.”
Alan, who early on led mindfulness-based meditation retreats in the West, advocates a form of activism that disavows dogma, hierarchy and formal religion. He has never shied from skewering false teachers and their preoccupation with self-deceit, power and profit. “So many so-called gurus and Eastern/Western hybrid spiritual systems and so many so-called ‘realized’ Western teachers and so many books on spiritual enlightenment all deal with Perfection, Absolutism and Certainty – the Cult of I Know Truth as Truth Should Be Known,” he says. “It’s one nirvana fits all.”
“The whole notion of assuming there’s ‘a Way’ to be free is another form of spiritual fascism and therein lies ‘Spiritually Incorrect’ – to confront the injustice of this uniform system of transcendence and Truth that so many charming charlatans and their collusion driven followers are hawking.
“Essentially, it’s the hijacking of mind space, and one must be vigilant of this possessing process because the syrup in the syringe is full of projection and denial of our humanness. It’s tragic to see the mind become addicted to the “Now” and live in the myopic trance of self-deception and call it openness and freedom.
“Most spiritual systems that I’ve seen are a projection fest. The guru/teacher allows people to come to them disempowered in a weakened state of searching and they offer the hope of finality by teaching the path of self-subjugation and so-called states of Awakening that are more often, band aids or condoms on our flawed beautiful humanness.
“So much of the mainstream Asian (and Western) spiritual beliefs are a product of elegant nihilism on the one hand and narcissism masquerading as awakened authenticity on the other hand. That level of fraudulence or masking or ‘bypassing’ is so done. It’s so two days ago. But what’s new about following the money, right?”
With death hovering close by, Alan says, “all of my dharma training and background tells me to chill and carry on in the most profoundly healthy way. People think it’s strange, but I have no fear of death, that I can see. I think it’s because I have seen so much death and also lived so well, so adventurously, and having traveled the world so much, you see and compare your life to so many people that live in abject hell that you know what’s to complain about?”
“Further, with death over your neck at ‘any second’ you can’t really plan for much, so you’ve got to really cut back everything to the moment, unfortunately. By the way, the moment is way overrated as a place to hang out for me. No offense to those who live in the now, but it’s far more expansive if I can imagine seeing you another time in my life and not just now. You sort of long for something to attach yourself to, oddly, other than this moment now. I’ve learned to call it the elongated now or the futuristic present or on better days, the perpetual pre-orgasm before the bliss of death. As you can see, the whole process makes you a bit mad.
“The hardest thing about dying that I’ve seen in the past twenty-two months since this prognosis is the people that truly love you. You have to embrace their love of you so fully, and you can’t vilify attachment as somehow wrong. So you are compelled to embrace their love of you with all of your heart, which is sometimes sitting in silence or face-timing together and letting them cry for an hour and then you cry together for another hour. Until you both laugh and cry some more.
“And there’s the other side which is really a radically incorrect thing that I’ve noticed is how a few folks try to shame you for their perception of hey, ‘you know as well as anyone that you create your own reality. Your aneurysm is from a life of broken-hardheadedness, and stress, and cigarettes, and drugs, and alcohol. And now it’s all coming back to you. What goes around, comes around, right?’ It’s often not as blunt as that, but you can feel it. These indoctrinated New Agers are often wealthy climate deniers, and swear by Burning Man, Botox, micro-dosing and face lifts. They often have no issue at all looking at you straight in the eye and saying that, as if they’re giving some kind of higher mystical teaching to you, right out of Deepak, Eckhart, or Prem Baba’s playbook. I usually flip them the proverbial bird with a smile and say namaste. I’m not at one with your god! Please take this as a joke. I’ll tell the truth at the Iao Theater on January 28th.”
For those of us trying to be conscious and wise, does Alan Clements have any suggestions on how to best navigate this kind of crazy time we live in?
“Pick your battles. Maya Angelou made it very clear, love liberates, it does not seek control. I would just stay with and find that which liberates, and do it over and over again.”
“Free your relationships, all of them. Free yourself from projection, control, expectation, jealousy, greed, predictability – give up wanting others to be wind up dolls to maintain one’s own status quo and or shallowness. Ask yourself, where can I liberate myself from the gravity of self deceit? In other words, unsupervise yourself – liberate yourself from the gestapo of toxic patriarchy. Free your naturalness and authenticity from cultural conformity. Break bad. Break out and stop dying before you die.
“On the other hand, find the little things that turn you on, that give you joy, excite your juices and just do it. And if it involves two, seek consent and co-create tender miracles; make a baby, quit your job, shave your head, heal and make up again and again – live honestly with ferocious vulnerability before crashing repeatedly into the brick wall of conformity and eventually death.
“It’s also a return to the most intimate, smallest, most spectacular forms of wonderment. There’s something to be said for finding those little joys that allow you your humanness, whatever that may be to you, and only you can determine what’s really important. It comes back to that cliché: what really is important to you this day? What will you do with the fullness of a full breath? Not that you can watch it mindfully, but you’ve got oxygen. What will you do with the oxygen in your lungs today, right now? Who will you talk to? How will you love? How will you wash your face? It sounds so Zen and so monastic and so simple. But its beauty and authenticity, saying life is precious and I want to live as best as I can on my terms – of what freedom means to me.
“On the other side, reflecting upon death has ignited existential imagination. I’ve been always been somewhat of a closet, esoteric, psychedelicized, Michio Kaku driven Buddhist, and underneath all the irreverence and spiritual incorrectness, I’m very much an existential, politicized, eroticized mystic. That’s why I went to Burma. I went there because of five years of psychedelic research on myself as a young man. That period opened me up to dimensionality – planes of existence and psychic powers. I went to the University of Virginia, where Dr. Ian Stevenson had a department that studied parapsychology. I grew up in Virginia Beach, a few miles from Edgar Casey – the renowned psychic – had his worldwide Association for Research and Entanglement. I did my ninth grade term paper on clairvoyance, about the same time I did my first acid trip.
“I really do believe in the spectrum of consciousness and Kaku’s string theory, and with this so-called death sentence, it’s inspired me to see it as a rebirthing opportunity. Waves in the ocean obviously don’t die when they go beneath the surface of the sea. Energy reforms as casual conditions lifting so called new waves that rise and pass, again and again, so long as the conditions are present. I really feel the same phenomena is true as humans, all life.”
“We’re waves and particles that arise and pass and reform again and again in this great samsaric ocean of totality.”
“So cognitive navigation within this sea has become an integral element for me now that I’m on the precipice of death. How well will you navigate your present into the near future and beyond, into your next reformation, your next life?
“But the main point, it’s no longer about being present in the now. It’s a navigational process, and I have a very deep desire to take birth with the next Buddha. I want to experience a Buddha in living action. Enough reading. I want to be in the sonic temple of these living teachings and to see them in dynamic action with men and women and devas and all other forms of life, as well.
“To be perfectly transparent, in my next life, I want to take rebirth with Maitreya, the next Buddha, and be with his or hers congregation of men and women who have devoted their lives to consciousness and freedom and psychically adventure, and see what comes from this radical rave party of freedom and enlightenment.
“For those who have a glimmer of hope of seeing things more clearly, the last three years, look at the pervasiveness of misinformation, Orwellianism. I won’t get into the right and wrong of all of that, but I put consciousness under pretty intimate study for forty years and especially in Burma where George Orwell lived during World War II, and the seeds of ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’ were born there. It’s a classic study in Big Brother and Orwellianism and the study of totalitarianism.
“A lot of what I’m seeing in the West now, previously confined to the Soviet Union, North Korea, China, and Burma, to dictatorships, overt totalitarian evil regimes, is now in Davos, Washington, Paris, London, Ottawa and so many other governments worldwide. These fucking idiots have lost it. It’s almost cliché to even talk about the global oligarchs, but they are going to be very instrumental in my show.
“I did a book, a novel last year, ‘Extinction X-Rated,’ and it’s a fifth of my show – how I can as an activist imagine excavating the toxic, evil patriarchy from the minds of leaders. I devised a plan of action. It’s powerful and funny. If someone asked me, what would you do? First of all, I would like an audience with Klaus Schwab, Joseph Biden and Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping to start. I’d like to invite them into a dialogue and speak to them over the course of a weekend on a high dose of acid to start, and it’s only a five minute riff (in the show) and it goes on in the Oval office.
“See, I am a dreamer. I want to create a sacred earth and not see it turned into a dystopian nightmare where it seems headed. I’ll leave the details of that riff for the show. Think ‘Clockwork Orange,’ meets Ketamine, meets Manchurian Canada, meets Gandhi.”
For closing thoughts, Alan offers: “It’s taken me a long time to appreciate the beauty of being alive. I’ve seen war up close, with people dying, maimed and others starving. There’s no teaching that I can see other than this immeasurable opening of the heart – a type of crazy wonderment at the mystery of life that allows us an intelligent, cogent, open, erotic, delicious, maddening human response to human circumstances.
“There’s no substitute for living Life as our art.”
“And to me, to do so is to live creatively, and with integrity conscience, and dignity. In so doing, keep alive critical thinking, radical inquiry, deep reasoning, ethical doubt. And mindful intelligence. Mindfulness itself is not enough. It needs to be intelligent. As my Mother once said, ‘even assassins can be mindful in the now’.”
Alan Clements will present his one-man show Spiritually Incorrect: Reborn” on Jan. 28 at 7:30 p.m. at the Iao Theater. Tickets range from $45 to $20, available at mauionstage. Tickets for the live stream are $15 available at eventbrite. Fifty percent of the net proceeds of the online revenues will be donated to support the unsheltered community on Maui and Hospice Maui. Fifty percent of the net proceeds will help support Alan dealing with his medical emergency. A free shuttle bus is available. Park at the Maui Lani Safeway side parking lot and be shuttled directly to the ‘Iao Theater and back after the show. https://www.mauionstage.com/spiritually-incorrect-reborn/