THE TRANSFORMATIONAL PERSPECTIVE (3)
AN EMERGING WORLDVIEW
By Hank Wesselman
(continued from last time)
The New Spiritual Complex
It is not surprising that the ‘new spirituality’ is integral in nature, drawing on all the world’s wisdom traditions, from the East to the West, from Animism to Zen. What is surprising is that right at its core can be found a cluster of principles that were embraced at one time by all the world’s indigenous peoples. (It must be acknowledged here that the religions of the traditional peoples were as diverse and varied as they themselves once were, with each region of the world encompassing hundreds of cultural groups and subgroups, some large, some small, each devoted to their own unique spiritual ways that could differ markedly from those of their neighbors.)
In approaching the idea that principles of indigenous wisdom are involved in the genesis of a new spiritual complex in the West, it is not necessary to compile yet one more academic stockpile of esoteric minutia of interest only to scholars and theologians. Rather, I am broadly concerned with the general mystical insights that were once held in common by virtually all of the traditionals and are thus the birthright of all people everywhere. I should add that modern spiritual seekers do not seem to be retreating into archaic belief systems, nor, with rare exceptions, are they interested in ‘playing Indian’ or becoming born-again Aboriginals. To the contrary, members of the Transformational Community are beginning to reconsider the core beliefs and values once held by the traditionals, and in the process, something entirely new is taking form.
This new religious complex has no name as yet, nor is it focused on the teachings of some charismatic prophet, guru, or holy person. Its singular, distinguishing feature involves the realization that each of us can acquire spiritual knowledge and power ourselves, making the direct, transpersonal contact with the sacred realms that defines the shaman/mystic, without the need for any priest or religious organization to do it for us. In this manner, each person acquires the freedom to become their own teacher, their own priest, their own prophet, receiving their spiritual revelations directly from the highest sources themselves.
As they engage in this ancient human experience, each inevitably discovers that their personal consciousness is part of a greater field of consciousness at large, a deep insight currently being illuminated and confirmed by quantum physics. This is the direct path of the mystic at its absolute best, one that leads the spiritual seeker into the experience of self-realization and spiritual empowerment.
At its inception, this quest is usually intensely personal. Yet as it progresses, it leads inevitably toward a universal and ultimately altruistic perspective, one that takes the seeker straight into the irreversible vortex of personal transformation. This advance, once begun, changes us profoundly and forever because it conveys to each of us the experience of authentic initiation. This is the great game that has been played by the shamans and mystics, saints and sages across time – one that some authors have called the Master Game (6). But at this point, the beginning of the Third Millennium, just how might we categorize these contemporary spiritual seekers, these players of the great game?
A Spiritual Revolution
It has been my experience that modern mystics tend to develop in isolation, becoming deeply immersed in personal, spiritual studies that are often triggered by paranormal experiences that society at large has taught them to conceal. An oft-cited Gallup Poll revealed more than a decade ago that as many as forty-three percent of the general population in the United States has had such experiences, revealing that this pool may be even deeper than Paul Ray has suggested. Modern mystics tend to be individualists, people with very full lives who like to gather in local meetings or spend their vacation time attending conferences and workshops in which they can acquire direct experience of such practically useful subjects as qigong and reiki, psychic healing and shamanism, meditation and yoga to name only a few. They then tend to disperse back into the wider society where they utilize what they have learned to benefit themselves, their networks of family and friends, and their communities at large. (7)
Beyond these general contours, it is easier to describe what modern mystics are not, rather than to accurately define what they are, and perhaps this is just as it should be because it is much in keeping with the nature of transitional, evolutionary events. For example, most of these individualist seekers are not religious ascetics, shutting themselves away in monasteries, ashrams, or remote mountain caves. They are not involved in practicing austerities and enduring endless periods of deep meditation. They are not religious extremists, invoking fundamentalist belief systems in search of their own exclusive connection with the godhead. Nor are they outright religious wackos, embracing recently uncovered secret doctrines, hidden away for ages and proclaimed as divine revelation by some smooth-talking New Age charismatic. Modern mystics are not involved in cults, nor are they the least bit interested in turning their power over to some holy so-and-so who claims to have the inside corner on the market of spiritual truth. The time of the guru is over.
It has been my experience that contemporary spiritual seekers are interested in spiritual liberation, not repressive or rigid dogma, and they tend to be deeply distrustful of any organized religious hierarchy. Because of this, steadily increasing numbers are leaving our mainstream religions in droves. In their search for authenticity, they are quietly, yet definitively, gaining a level of spiritual freedom that has not been experienced in the West for almost two thousand years.
Ray and Anderson’s research reveals that these transformationals are evenly distributed throughout the general population, suggesting that they are everywhere, in every community, and at every level of society. In short, this quietly and steadily escalating social phenomenon has all the appearances of a spiritual revolution.
Let us now have a closer look at these transformationals, examining their beliefs and values in particular. And as we do, we must keep in mind that these individuals are the seed people who may well determine the shape and orientation of spiritual practice in the Western world for much of the next two thousand years.
(Continued next time)