Science and Transcendental Realization
by Georg Feuerstein
The Transmission of Doubt
Talks and Essays on the Transcendence of Scientific Materialism through Radical Understanding.
By Da Free John.
1. THE CRISIS OF MODERN CIVILIZATION
Human civilization is like a mighty river, composed of countless branches, currents, pools, stagnant waters (the cultural failures), and numerous tributaries. It leisurely meanders through space and time, until it meets with massive resistance-the great natural and man-made crises-then having to force its way through perilous, narrow ravines and cascade down sheer precipices, to gather in wild torrents below, until its path begins to even out and run smoothly once again. It inexorably presses on toward the ocean-the emergent global culture of the twentieth century. But unlike its counterparts in Nature, the river of human civilization, though ocean-bound, does not inevitably merge into the sea. Rather, it is still in the process of shaping its riverbed: The unitary world culture of which peace-lovers and visionaries dream is no predetermined destiny. Its creation is entirely dependent on conscious cooperation, well- grounded in just those sentiments, attitudes, and moral values that are exceedingly rare among today’s cultural leaders.
In fact, our civilizational river is currently passing through a particularly difficult and treacherous terrain, which is perhaps best described as a kind of moral or cosmological no-man’s-land This awesome landscape has been vividly portrayed by Radhakamal Mukerjee:
Modern man is a chronic victim of conflict, contradiction and frustration of basic urges and satisfactions. The major profound and inescapable discords between his normal, personal, emotional demands and social pressures and expectances now cover all dimensions or orders of human adjustment and wish-fulfillment, so that the face of our entire civilization bears an indelible neurotic stamp. . . . Everything from food, sex, income and leisure to consumption, recreation and adventure is given a wrong neurotic twist. . . . There is an inordinate, general striving for power, prestige and possessions, with a premium on appropriative and aggressive drives, as providing security through the fortification of one’s viable position and status rather than through love, sharing and affection. . . . Civilized man has now lost the spiritual support of the familiar symbols, metaphors, and myths of ancient folk culture that had dealt with his psychic tensions and conflicts and given him emotional poise and security. . . . A pathological self-image underlies the wholesale distortion and perversion of social behaviour patterns, institutions, morals, values and symbols. . . . The irrational, disintegrative myths, phantasies and propaganda of mass culture, indeed, give significant expressions to an emergent barbarism. . . . Everywhere the outer-directedness, discontinuity and pseudo-personalization produce monotony, indifference and boredom, and prevent authentic experience and swallow up the individuality of genuine personalities.
Mukerjee is by no means alone in his trenchant criticism of our contemporary civilization. His voice is one among a growing chorus whose combined vocalization will, hopefully, prove strong enough to effect incisive changes before it is drowned by the deafening cacophony of civilizational collapse. The cartographic sketch that Mukerjee prepared of our present-day civilization is mainly from the perspective of social philosophy and psychology. It can be rounded out by the astute observations and considerations of hundreds of other renowned scientists, artists, educators, statesmen, and religious leaders.
One of the scholars who perhaps has best understood the real nature of the present crisis of mankind and its root causes is the Swiss cultural philosopher Jean Gebser. In the preface to his voluminous major work Ursprung und Gegenwart, he impressed on the reader that the crisis he was speaking about was not merely a moral, economic, ideological, political, or religious crisis, but something far more fundamental: the death throes of the old rational consciousness and the birth pains of the new integral consciousness-a major mutation comparable to that which catapulted Homeric Man into the world of Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. For Gebser, the “integral” or “aperspectival” consciousness meant the actualization of the Whole, by which the Origin is rendered transparent in the present.
Thus, our modern crisis concerns Man’s total being in its relationship to the world but also to the Transcendental Reality, not as an abstract, other-worldly goal but as the Process of Life in every moment.
Gebser, who first formulated his ideas in the thirties, shared his inspired vision with the Indian philosopher-sage Aurobindo Ghose and the French paleontologist-theologian Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. The torch that was lit by these three pioneers, simultaneously but apparently independent of each other, is now burning bright among the present generation of “new consciousness” thinkers. Even though Gebser was enthusiastic, even prophetic, about the integral consciousness, he was certainly less naive than some enthusiasts of the “Aquarian Age” movement. For him, the new consciousness was only an emergent possibility for mankind. The other possibility that he saw was global destruction. He debunked the nowadays widely believed millenarian myth of the inevitability of a new, “golden” epoch in which all wrongs will be righted and humanity will be saved from itself. He persistently emphasized the fact that for the promise of the new consciousness to come true, a healthy commitment to personal transformation is absolutely essential. And he meant not merely gestures of self- improvement but the hard labor of genuine self-transcendence.
The same principle is today passionately avowed by the Adept Da Free John, who, however, does not speak as a scholar but with the authority and the undoubted advantage of one in whom the spiritual process has fulfilled itself. Thus, what was for Gebser, de Chardin, and possibly even for Sri Aurobindo principally an inspired vision, a theoria, a network of intuitions about Man’s evolutionary potential, and what is, I suspect, for many contemporary advocates of the new consciousness only hopeful dogma or gray theory, is for Master Da Free John a present Actuality. Like the other great Adepts before him, he embodies that highest human aspiration of which Faust despaired, failing as he did to associate it with self-transcendence and the disposition of Ignorance: the Realization of the Transcendental Identity of all things, which is not the product of mystical inwardness, but the continuous Condition of all states of consciousness and objective reality.
We would do well to listen to the Wisdom or “God-talk” of such a Realizer! What Master Da has to say about our present-day worldwide difficulties is simple and lucid. In a talk entitled “The Urgency of the Teaching,” he places our contemporary situation in the broadest possible frame of reference, which allows one to peep beyond the narrow concerns of specialism and self-interest. His words are directed at the heart:
There is simply no light abroad in the world today. There is nothing but corruption, nothing but the failure to accept the Way of God. There is absolutely no sign of the Way of Truth, except in rare instances of individuals and small groups of people. The Truth is essentially hidden and secondary. There is a long history of corruption in every area of human life, and the entire social structure of the world is devoted to subhuman ends and forms of self- indulgence. There are no signs of an imminent Golden Age in the disposition or condition of humanity at large. Rather, the signs are of the necessity for a great purification, a great reestablishment of order, a righteous readjustment of the whole world.
Elsewhere he writes:
The Wisdom-Culture of Man at Infinity has been arrested all over the world. Everywhere, individuals are dominated by subhuman powers. The politics of human life has been brought under the control of salt-of-the-earth ideologies and gross scientific or technological machines of State. The truly spiritual understanding of Man is suppressed in every area of common education, and official voices are present everywhere to anathematize the deep visions and urges of the higher material, psychic, and spiritual or Transcendental dimensions of the human gesture in the world. Truly, it is always more or less so in the human world, but it is also clearly so at the present time.
The result of this suppression of Man by Nature and by the State is the appearance of a universal and chronic disease. It is frustration, or depression of Life. Everyone suffers this chronic depression, and everyone must struggle to overcome it. But the effects of the propagandistic subhuman powers of the world tend to minimize the conscious, responsible, and active mode of individual participation in the stream of experiential events. We tend to be passively or helplessly aligned to “what is,” because our Force of Life is frustrated, in doubt, crippled by a profound despair, which is always present, even if concealed under an exterior gloss of enthusiasm and competence.
The usual man, who is mechanically and passively, if fitfully or neurotically, associated with the conventions of daily experience, is the subject of profound frustration of the Force and Condition of Life. The Life that appears to move him is inherently moved to Realize its Transcendental Condition of Radiant Bliss, the Freedom of Absolute Consciousness. And that Radiant Life would even Radiate as the world and as the body-mind of Man, except that the Force of that Absolute Radiance is confused with the independent self-position of the mortal individual, and thus it is constantly frustrated by all the petty limitations of functionally and socially organized desire and energy.
Therefore, the Condition of our Life must be Realized. We must not merely be filled with Life. The self that seeks to be filled must become a sacrifice. The individual must become Ecstatic, or self-released. We must function in the mode of self-transcendence rather than self- indulgence.
In summary, Man is subhuman until he Awakens from mere desire, or self-indulgence, to Love, or self- transcendence, in constant Communion with the Living God and in Lawful or responsible management of all functional and relational conditions of experience. The Awakened or true Man is inherently Free of all the frustrating limitations of Nature and the State. He is Radiant in the world, so that the Transcendental Reality is alive as him. Therefore, a world of human beings so Awakened may create a truly benign and moral Culture, or true State, founded in the Wisdom-Influence of the Radiant Transcendental Consciousness. And only human beings so Awakened and so ordered are free of the inherent and chronic frustrations that produce subhuman societies, subhuman cravings, and subhuman destinies, before and after death.
2. RADICAL TRANSCENDENTALISM VERSUS PROBLEM-SOLVING APPROACHES
For Buckminster Fuller, who regarded our present crisis primarily as an ecological problem, our salvation lies in “design science,” an alternative technology, and conscious, cooperative planning. He proposed to alter our physical environment in order to change our mental universe. But the kind of transformation he wanted to see happen presupposes a level of conversion to the new way of thinking implicit in his policies and programs for survival. Although he did not underestimate the formidable ideological and psychological obstacles that confront his budding design science and philosophy of the “Universal Man,” he nevertheless approached our contemporary dilemma primarily from the perspective of the scientist and engineer that he was.
Fuller, for whom God is “the integrity of the anticipatory intellectual wisdom,” was not oblivious to the spiritual aspect of human existence, but his genius expressed itself in the area of technological innovation rather than individual psychological and spiritual transformation. In other words, he was active as a remarkable thinker and inventor, and not as a spiritual teacher. He proceeded on the basis of knowledge, even though this was, in his case, rooted in deep intellectual intuitions about the nature of existence. Yet, knowledge or intellectual understanding on its own is an insufficient tool for dealing with our present-day crisis, because our cultural dilemma has deep psychological roots. Therefore, another approach is clearly called for-an approach that accounts for the fact that the human being is what the father of general systems theory, Ludwig von Bertalanffy, called an “open system”: Man is (potentially) open to all dimensions of reality, not least to that “Ultimate General System” which Bertalanffy (like so many other scientists) risked to ponder only in his most private moments. In other words, we must make a spiritual response today.
Such an orientation is to be found in the Radical Transcendentalism of the Adept Da Free John. This is not a new philosophy or ideology, not even a novel therapy-as if the world did not abound in “isms” of all descriptions and countless remedial systems for the betterment of Man and the ameliorization (sic) of his earthly lot. The term “Radical Transcendentalism,” first used by Master Da in his Nirvanasara, is, strictly, a concession to the conventional intellect with its insatiable appetite for classification. Master Da himself most frequently refers to it, for reasons that will become obvious, as the “Way of Radical Understanding or Divine Ignorance,” or simply, “the Way.”
Radical Transcendentalism implies a whole life-style whose fulcrum point is the supreme value of Transcendental Realization or Transcendental Identification with Reality itself. It has grown out of the Adept’s living At-One-ness with the all-encompassing Being that Master Da also styles “God,” “Transcendental Self,” “Consciousness,” “Truth,” or “the Condition of all conditions.”
This Reality or Divine Being is not the Christian, Hebraic, or Moslem “God out there” who is charged with the authorship of the world, nor the “God within” of the traditions of esoteric introversionism, nor the abstract projected Absolute of metaphysical speculation. This Reality does not depend for its Realization on any altered state of consciousness or any other form of subjective cognition. It transcends (but does not exclude) conventional types of ecstasy or enstasy, as it transcends all sensation, feeling, or thought. It eclipses all phenomenal conditions, however “high” or rarefied, and, in another sense, it actually constitutes them. This is how Master Da Free John describes this Supreme Condition:
There is only the Radiant Transcendental Being, Who is One. All beings and things and worlds are ultimately and Really only Identical to That One, Who is God, the Divine Person.
Only God is Alive as everyone and everything. All beings and things and worlds are arising as spontaneous transformations or modifications of That One. God eternally Transcends the world and all beings, and yet the world and all beings are nothing but God. It is a Great and Passionate Mystery.
He further observes:
Each of us inheres in Radiant Transcendental Being, the Bright or Divine Self, in Whom the Universe of all possibilities is arising as a great psycho-physical Process. But we are made superficial by attention to the Play of psycho-physical states, so that we abandon the intuitive position or disposition wherein our own Identity and the Condition of all conditions is obvious. Thus, we develop a state of presumed knowledge and conventional experience in which the physical or elemental world seems to be dominant, such that it appears to cause and also to be the final destiny of the conscious self and all that is mind.
In Truth, there is the Eternal-Divine Self, and the total psycho-physical cosmos arises in It. But the conventional view (based on the superficial involvement of attention in phenomena) is that there is, first of all, the physical-elemental world, and mental states as well as conscious being merely arise as individual and temporary effects of that world.
Evidently, Consciousness or Reality is not verifiable, only Verifiable or Realizable. It is capable of being intuitively replicated in the form of a whole-bodily disposition. It is this intuition that forms the backbone of the Way of Radical Understanding. It is a response at the deepest level of one’s being, an ego- transcending attitude of being fully present in the world without the superimposition of separateness and without becoming implicated in the self-propagating patterns of reactivity of the body-mind. In a talk entitled “The Religious Ambivalence of Western Man,” Master Da Free John explains in vivid terms what this disposition entails:
Then existence is not problematic. It is creative. It is a process of the confrontation of conditions, but it is humorous, already Enlightened. Nothing ultimate is at stake. It is just the game of the universe.
And there is nowhere to look for God. What is God is completely obvious under these conditions, even totally within the limits of your present perception. There is the Divine. It is not a matter of some other vision, some other experience, some inwardness. It is a matter of hearing, of being awakened from the sleep, the bondage, the problem, the dilemma by which you apprehend your present condition. In this hearing you are awakened to the Condition of this moment without all the concepts and contractions of energy and feeling.
When there is no obstruction to feeling-attention, then what is Divine, without qualification, is completely obvious.
Master Da Free John goes on to say that, since people imagine that they do not Realize God under the ordinary conditions of their lives, they feel compelled to create other kinds of conditions-visions, auditions, etc.-in order to enjoy that Realization. But, speaking as one who is familiar with every possible psychic experience, the Adept firmly discards this notion. All conditions or phenomena arise in and as the Transcendental Reality, and therefore all are equally to be met with that unobstructed feeling-attention that is coessential with the unqualified Being-Consciousness.
When this disposition of radical understanding-which is not simply a mental attitude or exercise-is maintained to perfection, when the individual surrenders all standpoints, all self-programs, all clinging, and all aversion toward everything, then feeling-attention will naturally and instantaneously flip over into Infinity or Objectless Consciousness, the Ultimate General System.
But what does this flip-over mean? This question is answerable by responding to another question, which any metaphysics-shy skeptic is wont to ask sooner or later: What is the ontological status of that ultimate Being-Consciousness? John Lilly, in discussing Franklin Merrell-Wolff’s “Consciousness- Without-an-Object,” digs into this philosophical issue in his own inimical fashion:
If states of consciousness are self-programmed, then the basic question arises: Which one of the states of consciousness is independent of the self-programmatic power of the individual? Is there any state of consciousness which is not self-programmed?
To escape answering these questions we appeal to others, to the consensus judgment about reality. And we say: “If I cannot trust my own judgment of the reality of a given state of consciousness, then I must trust the judgment of others whom I designate as ‘experts’ in these matters”-priests, psychiatrists, doctors, lawyers, politicians, statesmen, legislators, and so forth.
Of course, as Lilly rightly pointed out, authority alone is insufficient to settle one’s doubts. Or else, the history of metaphysical speculation and theology would long have come to a close. His own experience of “something far greater than I” allows Lilly to remain open to the possibility of an “essence” that is not the product of the ego’s metaprograms. At the same time, however, he does not have any conclusive answers either. He writes:
It may be that [Merrell-] Wolff, like all the rest of us, is doing an overvaluation of his own abstractions. It may be that he is generating, i.e., self-metaprogramming, states of his own mind and those of others in which the ideals of the race are reified as thought objects, as programs, as realities, as states of consciousness. It may be that this is all we can do.
He then makes the following sanguine recommendation:
If this is all we can do, maybe we had better do it-and see if there is anything beyond this by doing it….
This may be a better game than killing our neighbors because they do not believe in our simulations of God. At least those who espouse these states claim that these states are above any other human aspiration; that once one has experienced them, he is almost unfit for wrath, for pride, for arrogance, for power over others, for group pressure exerted either upon oneself or upon others….
One becomes content with the minimum necessities for survival on the planetside trip; one cuts back on his use of unnecessary articles-machines, gadgets, and devices. He no longer needs motion pictures, television, dishwashers, or other luxuries. One no longer needs much of what most people value above all else. One no longer needs the excitement of war. One no longer needs to be a slave to destructive thoughts or deeds. One no longer needs to organize.
This is all the great Adepts have ever invited mankind to do. They do not ask for blind faith but firm commitment to practical “experimentation.”
Lilly’s suggestion that the Realization of the Consciousness-Without-an-Object would be desirable even if it should turn out to be a metaprogrammed state is to the point and not to be made light of. However, he appears to have overlooked, or given inadequate attention to, a significant feature of genuine God- Realization. This is the fact that God-Realization presupposes the phenomenon of ego-death. Is it possible for there to be a self-program when the ego or self is transcended? Could the program possibly survive its programmer? The uniform testimony of all the God-Realized Adepts is that it does not. When the self is transcended, there is no way in which the simulation game could be continued.
God-Realization is not an experience. It is a permanent condition-the Condition. It implies an irrevocable identity shift in which the narrow egoic consciousness, which experiences itself as locked into a particular limited body-mind, is replaced by the All-Identity of Transcendental Being- Consciousness.
This is the clear message of Master Da Free John. And we need not take his word for it. All possible states of consciousness are reproducible, though one may have to fritter away a lifetime in their pursuit. Likewise, the Great Space of Transcendental Consciousness, in which all states of consciousness arise, is Realizable, granted one is willing to submit to the “experimental conditions” that are necessary (though not sufficient) for such a Realization. That the Way of Radical Understanding, communicated by Master Da Free John, is a viable context for this ultimate Opening-up has been demonstrated by the Enlightenment of several long-term practitioners of this Way.
The Way of Radical Understanding or Radical Transcendentalism, anchored as it is in the Wisdom of Transcendental Realization, represents an approach to life that goes beyond the shallowness of materialism in its many forms as well as beyond the dissociative loftiness of idealist systems of thought. It is not limited to either extroversionism, dominated by the sympathetic nervous system, or introversionism, controlled by the parasympathetic ganglia. Rather, it is self-transcending and hence also world-transcending (though not world-denying). For the practitioner of this Way, therefore, there are major consequences in all areas of his life, notably in his primary relationship to the Transcendental Reality but also in his interpersonal relationships. Some of the moral values and attitudes that naturally grow out of his practice of self-transcendence-such as love, service, harmony-coincide with those of traditional religiosity, but the basis for their implementation is different. Whereas in conventional religion, morality springs from the urge to realize the highest good as postulated by dogma, moral practice in the Way of Radical Understanding is always engaged as part of the overall orientation of self-transcendence through the continuous inspection of, and aperspectival openness to, one’s tendencies in action.
Radical Transcendentalism is not concerned with the problem of good and evil as a jumping-off point for ethical prescriptions. Self-transcending practice is senior to all moral conflict or consideration. The moral force of Radical Transcendentalism lies in the fact that it proceeds from the progressive undermining of the very activity that posits the sense of good and evil and all the many degrees by which human life is channelled into the “right” (i.e., “good”) direction. That central activity is the ego, the self-sense, or Narcissus. Even the striving for the good, however it may be conceived (and humanity has entertained different, even conflicting, notions about what is moral and good or what is conducive to the good), is a self-program, a manipulation of life.
All occupations derived from the ego-base are necessarily limited to egoity, and all conceptions that feed such egoic occupations are necessarily bereft of a right view of self, world, and God (or the ultimate and Transcendental Reality and Truth).
When the mechanics of egoity are transcended in our understanding, then it becomes obvious that life (or manifest phenomenal existence) is simply a play of opposites. Neither “Good” (or creation and preservation) nor “Evil” (or destruction) finally wins. Nature, in all its planes, is inherently a dynamic. The play of Nature, in all its forms and beings and processes, is not merely (or exclusively and finally) seeking the apparent “Good” of self-preservation (or the preservation and fulfillment of any particular form, world, or being), nor is it merely (or exclusively and finally) seeking the apparent “Evil” of self-destruction (or the dissolution of any particular form, world, or being). Rather, the play in Nature is always in the direction of perpetuating the dynamics of the play itself-and, therefore, polarity, opposition, struggle, alternation, death, and cyclic repetition tend to be perpetuated as the characteristics of phenomenal existence. Therefore, the play of Nature is always alternating between the appearance of dominance by one or the other of its two basic extremes. And the sign of this is in the inherent struggle that involves every form, being, and process. The struggle is this dynamic play of opposites, but the import of it is not the absolute triumph of either half.
Things and beings and processes arise, they move, they are transformed, and they disappear. No thing or being or process is ultimately preserved. But neither is there any absolute destruction. Nature is a transformer, not merely a creator or a destroyer.
To the ego (or present temporary form of being) self-preservation may seem to be the inevitable motive of being. Therefore, a struggle develops to destroy or escape the dynamic of Nature by dominating Evil (or death) with Good (or immortality). This ideal gets expressed in the generally exoteric and occidental or more materialistic efforts to conquer Nature via worldly knowledge and power. But it also gets expressed in the more esoteric and oriental or mystical efforts to escape the plane of Nature by ascent from materiality (or the Evil of the flesh) to Heaven (the Good God above the consciousness of Nature).
For Master Da Free John, the only “sin” there is, is the recoil from, or the denial of, the infinite Being- Consciousness. Sin, for him, is the presumption of separation, independence, or identification with the body-mind. The transcendence of ethical propositions and positions does not signal the wreckage of moral life, either individually or collectively.
When the devotee has become Transfigured in the seventh stage of life, he is free of all conventional obligations of body and mind, and he abides only in God. Since he is free of all obligations, he can do what he likes, endure whatever arises, and yet remain free. But since he abides only in God, rather than in the modifications of the body-mind, his actions are always God-made, Full of life, pure, graceful, benign, and auspicious, even when his actions are difficult for others to understand. Such is the paradox of whole bodily Enlightenment.
Ego-transcendence has thus a transforming effect on the body mind and environment of the God- Realized being. And that transformation is, even in the terms of conventional religious expectation, utterly desirable. For, self-transcendence is synonymous with the disposition of unconditional Love, not as an ephemeral human sentiment but as a constant that informs all the activities of the Enlightened being. Because Realization is not a static, terminal condition but an ongoing or deepening Process of Dissolution in the Transcendental Being, the Enlightened practitioner is engaged in a discipline or sadhana of a special kind.
He recognizes what arises, and abides in the Prior Transcendental Consciousness, the Self, or Divine Ignorance. During this phase he may carry on all of his ordinary and natural human activities in the same fashion as in the earlier stages of practice. He appears to be Full, and Tranquil, responsible for all of the ordinary conditions of life, and active in a natural manner, even with enthusiasm for the pleasurable conditions of this world. But he recognizes all conditions to be unnecessary modifications of the Radiant Self.
This phase of Awakening continues for a time, until the conditions of experience begin to become profoundly transparent. Thus, as time goes on, the devotee not only recognizes or “sees through” all conditions of experience, but he becomes more and more Ecstatically Absorbed in the Divine, in Whom all conditions are arising.
The crisis in which mankind finds itself today is generated and suffered by the separative ego- consciousness. All conventional remedies and solutions-from design science, ecological awareness, and worldwide economic-political restructuring to consciousness-raising methods, back-to-nature philosophies, self-improvement techniques, and meditation (however transcendental)-are, in the last analysis, all ego-based measures; they cannot possibly have a decisive curative value. It seems reasonable to assume, however, that a widely shared way of life in which active ego-transcendence is the alpha and omega of everyone’s (or most people’s) aspiration, will, by removing the engine of the crisis, dissolve the critical situation itself. Problems and solutions are the battleground of un-Enlightened existence, of the self-divided egoic consciousness. The One Reality is not problematical. In The Knee of Listening, Master Da Free John writes aphoristically:
We are never at any moment in the dilemma we fear ourselves to be. Only this radical understanding in the heart of life is the ground of real peace and joy. All else is seeking and strife and fear.
3. RELIGIOUS PROVINCIALISM AND SCIENTIFIC MATERIALISM
As I intimated toward the beginning of the previous section, the urge for spiritual maturation alive in some individuals and groups is largely prevented from bearing fruit in society at large by two ideological forces that are as insidious as they are powerful. These forces have a long, intertwined history.
Although they are essentially in competition with each other, whenever it served their purpose they would connive at their differences and uneasily conspire to safeguard their shared hegemony over the human mind. Master Da Free John, seeing the larger context, has identified these two cultural configurations as religious provincialism and scientific materialism respectively.
Religious provincialism, as the name indicates, is a narrow, hidebound view of the universe which flies under the banner of religion. It takes the form of exoteric cultism that is intolerant of genuine Ecstasy and the kind of attitudes and practices that are associated with an Ecstatic way of life. Hence it is always antagonistic toward personal, informal religiosity, esotericism, and mysticism. Adepts, and everyone who even seemingly steps outside the established mold, are immediately suspect and likely to be subjected to suppression, recantation, ridicule, anathematization, persecution, banishment, imprisonment, and possibly execution. Religious provincialism seeks vindication for its existence in some sacred revelation or authority and (rightly) fears and (wrongly) discourages independent inquiry and free thinking.
It places dogma over the Living Truth, ritualism over Ecstatic self-transcendence, obedience to the Holy Writ over direct surrender to God, ecclesiastical survival over individual freedom. Its principle is not God-Realization, Emancipation, or Ultimate Happiness, but such goals as moral goodness or personal contentment or the achievement of heaven in the hereafter, through prayerful submission to one’s “Maker” or “Heavenly Father,” or to the “Divine Mother.”
All goals are the visions of Narcissus, mere conceptions or simulations of real Happiness associated in our minds with the kinds of extraordinary enjoyments we may have experienced from time to time in our lives. Therefore, our conceptions of the future, as long as we are goal-oriented, are false conceptions because they do not express our prior Happiness. We have only the models of our un-Happy pleasures.
Conventional religious and spiritual pursuits, then, are like ordinary addiction. They are associated with a false goal. If religious and spiritual practitioners really knew What they were seeking, they would Realize It in the present.
Religious provincialism marks and mars most of the traditions and schools of thought which compose what Master Da Free John names the “Great Tradition.” By this term he means the total cultural heritage of mankind, all the great and minor religions, philosophies, ideologies, paths, and esoteric teachings by which people, past and present, have organized their lives. In the spirit of the budding world culture, Master Da Free John calls for “the universal acceptance of the total tradition (or Great Tradition) of mankind,” with the stipulation that “we must overcome the provincialism of our minds (and, ultimately, the provincialism that is mind itself).”
He appeals to us to respect and show tolerance toward all traditions. At the same time, however, he asks that this openness be tempered by a healthy attitude of criticism, based on a higher understanding. He does not commend either a naive eclecticism or a simplistic relativism in which all schools of thought are deemed equally true, valid, or viable.
Such a higher understanding is offered by Radical Transcendentalism, which acknowledges the fact that all schools of thought are simply representations of, and approaches to, the Truth and that any claim on their part for ultimacy, finality, completeness, or infallibility is no more than propaganda that may actually detract from their potential merit.
It is no longer appropriate or even possible for individuals, cultures, or nations to justify absolute independence from other individuals, cultures, or nations-and it is no longer appropriate or possible to grant absolute or ultimately superior status to any historical Revelation, belief system, or conception of how things work.
Radical Transcendentalism is, by contrast, the tradition of self-transcending, belief-transcending, and knowledge-transcending Realization. Although it is necessarily associated with certain ideas and practices, these are not in any way sacrosanct properties of this Way but are, ultimately, all relativized and transcended by radical understanding: They are founded in the Wisdom of the ultimate Realization. The ideational building-blocks simply serve the Adept as vehicles of communication, whilst the recommended disciplines are designed to free the practitioner’s energy and attention for the radical process of self-transcendence. The authority for both theory and practice is rooted in the Adept’s Realization, which is not to be turned into an icon of mere belief but to be duplicated by the practitioner in his own life.
In The Fire Gospel, which is dedicated to demonstrating the distinction between conventional religious practice and the orientation of Radical Transcendentalism, Master Da Free John explains how traditional religion and spirituality are tied into an archaic cosmology that avows a “Nature realism”: The cosmos is seen as an immense hierarchical structure populated by spirit-entities on progressively superior echelons, terminating in the unsurpassable Supreme Ruler of Nature, the Deity. Today, where the psychic or participatory dimension of religious life is barely existent, this view of the universe has no longer the experiential immediacy it had in the past. It is banished into the exoteric realm of sheer dogma and belief.
This transposition is doubly unfortunate. First, as Master Da Free John points out, the ancient world- view of a spirit-inhabited, multi-dimensional world is in principle correct. Hence it is open to experience, even though there is room and a need for reinterpretation. But the modern taboo against psychic participation in Nature eliminates this whole dimension of experience from religious life. Second, because the traditional interpretation of the psychic or psycho-physical organization of the world is antiquated, to give it dogmatic expression and only encourage a response of belief (rather than experience) helps to further undermine the credibility of this model of the universe.
Thus, the contemporary religious leaders find themselves in the unhappy position of employing an archaic language that has little or no communicative value, since the realities of which it speaks are not part of the world experience of the “believers.” Consequently, the pious, unless they happen to be completely unsophisticated, do their own “reinterpretation,” which usually involves a kind of precipitant demythologization. Of course, the conventional religious mind, though it may discard or allegorize the existence of angels and other higher spirit-entities to whose presence it has become desensitized, is conditioned to accept the one dogma that has no validity-the existence of a Divine Creator who is the ultimate Spiritual Agent.
While Master Da Free John does not call into question the possibility of a Patron (or even several such Patrons) at the apex of the political hierarchy of spirit-beings, he certainly challenges any claim to supremacy of that paternal cosmic Principle. The Heavenly Father or Personal God Who is thought to be absolute is, for him, clearly a projection, for which Freud supplied the psychological grounds. Most scientists today would be quick to underwrite this view.
For Kepler, Galileo, Descartes, and Newton in the seventeenth century, Nature was still God’s miraculous creation. This changed with the Age of Enlightenment, which celebrated reason above all else. The new spirit is captured in an anecdote about Pierre Simon de Laplace, the French mathematician and astronomer. Napoleon commented to him: “They tell me you have written this large book on the system of the universe, and have never even mentioned its Creator.” Laplace responded: “I had no need of that hypothesis.” By the third generation of “Enlightened” scientists, God had been analyzed into nonexistence. Thus, modern science came to be an essentially atheistic enterprise.
Pointing out that this denial of the Divine could only have arisen on the historical basis of a dualism between God and the world, the German historian of philosophy Wilhelm Kamlah spoke of science as a specifically Christian form of Godlessness-a profound insight, corroborated in a way by the twentieth- century “Death of God” theology within the Christian camp itself.
Although the scientists’ faith in the salvific power of reason has been badly shaken through the scientific discoveries of the twentieth century, nevertheless few are willing to don again what they consider the straitjacket of religious superstition. As Albert Einstein observed:
The man who is thoroughly convinced of the universal operation of the law of causation cannot for a moment entertain the idea of a being who interferes in the course of events-that is, if he takes the hypothesis of causality really seriously. He has no use for the religion of fear and equally little for social or moral religion.
Yet, Einstein did not rest content with a rejection of the anthropomorphic Deity of conventional religiosity and its particular morality. He declared his allegiance to the philosophia perennis in the form of what he called “cosmic religious feeling,” and remarked that “it is the most important function of art and science to awaken this feeling and keep it alive in those who are capable of it.” How many scientists would follow Einstein this far? I daresay, exceedingly few. For the majority, religion-whether as a subjective (irrational) feeling or as an organized moral life-is no more than a personal philosophy, perhaps a form of self-indulgence, but most likely a private delusion. After all, did not Freud expose the neurotic roots of religious beliefs? Can one ignore his conclusion that the “religions of mankind must be classed among the mass-delusions”? Has not Marx affirmed and demonstrated the same truth in the context of economic history? It would be difficult to persuade any hard-nosed scientist otherwise. Nor is this necessary for the present purpose.
There are no compelling reasons to assume that religion is other than an ego-based activity. But so is science. And this is hardly ever appreciated by those who like to see religion discredited and discarded onto the considerable pile of follies committed by mankind in its slow advance against irrationalism.
Since science, as much as religion, is an activity originating in the ego, it also partakes of the same susceptibilities. Arthur Stanley Eddington, in his Swarthmore Lecture of 1929, unwittingly identified the crucial liability of both pursuits when he remarked: “You will understand the true spirit neither of science nor of religion unless seeking is placed in the forefront.”
Seeking is indeed the great principle that animates human beings and that underlies all human endeavor and suffering. Master Da Free John gives it aphoristic expression thus:
Life is the wisdom of seeking, which is no wisdom at all. Truth is the wisdom of no seeking, which is only wiser than life.
Reality is the wisdom of no-dilemma, which is Wisdom itself. There is nothing ultimate about life. Its best wisdom is the knowledge of how to play games.
There is nothing radically useful about the consciousness of Truth. Its best wisdom is the knowledge that all life is seeking.
Seeking is simply clinging to various concepts, goals, things, methods, and paths that seem to promise release from death, from the knowledge of death, and from all suffering, which is separation and death.
Trouble begins only where there is identification with the seeker. But Truth is not the notion: “I am not the seeker-I am not the dying one who fears and seek.” Truth is simply the understanding of seeking. The man who understands always is understanding, until the movement in him that extends itself as the seeker ceases to arise.
Thus, the scientist is as implicated in this search as the religionist. Both are suffering; both are afraid of their own mortality; both are instantly looking for a way out of their existential dilemma. And neither of them is capable of breaking free by means of their incessant seeking. It takes a fine ear to hear this argument.
The scientific doubter of the religious version of the search may learn part of this important lesson from epistemology and the sociology of knowledge. These disciplines will give him a clear understanding of the fact that his own activity is not occurring in a psychological vacuum but that it is necessarily a product of his ego in search of “objective” truth, rational certainty, or at least intellectually satisfying answers to his questions.
What he must be willing to learn next, though, is that the ego is just that movement of seeking, that restless dissociation from the totality of the present moment, that self-inflicted recoil from Reality. It is the clamoring for experiences, sensations, feelings, thoughts, and knowledge in which one can lose oneself with pleasure. But pleasure is only a simulacrum of the Happiness or Bliss of the undifferentiated “Condition of all conditions.” To grasp this point the scientist must concede a model of Man that acknowledges Man’s multidimensionality and the psycho-physical nature of existence.
This, however, the majority of scientists are unable or unwilling to do. For, the reigning model of Man and the universe stands in the age-old tradition of materialism, first as the primitive attitude of “eat, drink, and be merry,” then as a philosophical effort. Materialism treats matter as the primal principle or essence of reality, including all psychic and mental phenomena. Since, in this view, psyche and mind are merely products or epiphenomena of material Nature, it follows that Nature exists independent of the thinking subject. Hence, idealism is a falsity. Furthermore, there can be no immaterial realms or entities such as God, angels, or spirits. Therefore, religion is deemed a lie, and metaphysics a waste of time.
Modern scientific materialism is a descendant of the tradition that commenced with the materialist doctrines of the Greeks Leucippus, Democritus, Empedocles, and Epicurus and the Roman Lucretius. More specifically, scientific materialism owes its existence to the materialist revival, after its long eclipse by Christian idealism, in the seventeenth century. Prominent figures were the French astronomer Pierre Gassendi (who still held to the official Church doctrine about God as Father), the English philosopher- statesman Thomas Hobbes (who had fewer qualms about disposing of theological concepts), and the more prestigious French mathematician-philosopher René Descartes (who espoused a thoroughly materialistic interpretation of the inanimate cosmos but who nevertheless held fast to the belief in an immaterial and immortal soul).
The eighteenth century, which celebrated itself as the Age of Reason, reaped the first significant technological fruits of the intellectual revolution of the preceding centuries. Its two great landmarks were the monumental Encyclopedie of the French Enlightenment philosophers, with their boundless optimism in human progress and the (irrational) belief in the perfectibility of Man through reason, and, in the latter part of the century, the Industrial Revolution, which translated scientific insight and speculation into practical reality, thereby transforming the lives of millions of people in a very short span of time.
With the expanding influence of the mechanistic world-view, inspired by Newton, religion receded more and more into the background of popular culture where, however, it persisted to dominate the hearts and minds of the less educated. This trend continued into the nineteenth century, even though the professional culture of science succeeded in freeing itself entirely from the shackles of the Church.
Biblical lore and theological speculation proved no competition for a demonstrably successful science that could point to the triumph of chemistry, the formulation of the epochal theory-thermodynarnics, Darwin’s iconoclastic theory of evolution, and Maxwell’s electromagnetic theory-the latter unifying the hitherto separate disciplines of electricity, magnetism, and optics. Science began to stake for itself a claim to the throne of savior of mankind-a role for which it is particularly unsuited but which it is reluctant to resign.
Science has been hailed as the liberator of Man. True enough, science has proved a powerful tool in eradicating many of the emergencies and ills to which humanity has been exposed for millennia.
Through the ingenious application of the principles discovered by science, a vast array of machines, apparatuses, and gadgets has been invented that effectively reduce Man’s anxiety and labors to stay alive and healthy. The average life span has at least trebled from the time of our Stone Age ancestors. Science has also been responsible for the technical means that now make feasible the cultural and political unification of humanity, liberating Man from his geographic isolation and granting him the possibility of growing beyond his mental insularity. It has even taken Man off his home planet, giving him an altogether new perspective on himself and his future possibilities. The catalog of such benefits is long and obviously open-ended.
Yet, science has its shadowy side, too, which can be symbolized in the single image of the nuclear bomb but which reaches deeper: into the innermost recesses of Man’s psychic and mental life. In the words of R. G. Owen:
The successes of science are due to its careful observance of its limitations. It confines itself to the quantitative and mechanical and does not presume to speak about spirit, values, and freedom; it understands that there may be vast areas of reality that lie beyond its reach.
Science, however, because of its accomplishments, has acquired tremendous prestige and has risen in spite of itself to a position of predominant authority in our age. As a result of this exaltation, science, in some quarters, has come to be worshipped as omniscient, omnipotent, and the bearer of man’s salvation. Such an attitude to science is, of course, entirely unscientific. It must be carefully distinguished from science proper. We may call it scientism or scientolatry. This peculiarly modern form of idolatry refuses to recognize the limitations of science and claims that its working principles can be used as universal principles, in terms of which the whole of reality can be explained and controlled. Scientism thus transforms the limiting principles of science into all-embracing dogmas which are regarded as absolute and final truths.
Scientology [scientism], therefore, claims that it can solve all problems “scientifically.” … But when the limits of science are disregarded, when science becomes an absolute authority, when its principles are first converted into the generalized assumptions of a prevailing tradition and then articulated in the all-embracing dogmas of a pseudoscientific metaphysics, then men find themselves, at the end of the scientific age, not free but enslaved in new and more terrible forms of bondage.
What shape this new servitude of Man could take has been portrayed, with chilling imagination, by George Orwell, who envisioned a nightmarish society riddled by scarcity, unbridled aggression, and unparalleled suppression of individual freedom. Aldous Huxley furnished us with an alternative but equally horrifying vision: that of a world society populated by state-controlled, mindless (but not happy) “hollow” citizens. Both “visions” and all other similar novelistic scenarios may, in principle, come true. The stage is certainly set for such a possibility.
Friedrich Georg Juenger, German arch-critic of modern technology, saw science becoming the servant of technology. He astutely observed that “the scientist becomes increasingly an employee in the institutes and laboratories of industry, where his knowledge is exploited for technical uses.” His fears, expressed at the time of World War II, were realistic enough. Today, almost four decades later, a large proportion of scientific research is not only government-sponsored but streamlined to meet the requirements of the state.
Science (and scientists) have become a nation’s most precious commodity. Understandably, the state intervenes in scientific research and even monopolizes it. The reason for this government intervention in science is well known: to deploy the scientific genius for military ends. In the so-called “Free World,” a small number of large corporations have the financial power, if not to openly compete with government, at least to persuade it to share its monopoly with them. Jointly their monies control more or less the whole of the scientific establishment-both at the university level and in the sphere of industry.
As a result, scientific knowledge, once freely disseminated across national boundaries, is now jealously guarded and used in the intercompany struggle for increasing economic power and not least in the political game of one-upmanship between the great nations. A sorry and dangerous state of affairs!
Equally perilous is the scientistic ideology that, thanks to the successes of science and their uncritical propagandization through the mass media, has infected the popular mind, which is more and more lagging behind the rapidly extending frontiers of knowledge. Science is already post-modern, whereas the ordinary person still occupies a mainly pre-Copernican universe, with an almost magical relationship to the achievements and wonders of contemporary science and technology, which he is able to enjoy passively (and hence suffer) as a mere consumer, but in which he is unable to participate psychically.
The knowledge explosion has fragmented his mind and feeling being, leaving him in a state of alienation, confusion, and basic anxiety. Jules Henry concludes his widely read book Culture against Man on the following somber note:
In Western Culture today one must make a distinction between the culture of life and the culture of death. In the minds of most people science has become synonymous with destructive weapons, i.e. with death…. Where is the culture of life? The culture of life resides in all those people who, inarticulate, frightened, and confused, are wondering “where it will all end.” Thus the forces of death are confident and organized while the forces of life-the people who long for peace-are, for the most part, scattered, inarticulate, and wooly-minded, overwhelmed by their own impotence. Death struts about the house while life cowers in the corner.
4. THE NEW SCIENCE AND THE NEW RELIGIONS: HOAX OR HOPE?
The concluding remarks of the preceding section reflect one half, perhaps the more substantial half, of the status quo: The problems that mankind faces are very real and serious. However, contrary to Oswald Spengler, who boldly prophesied the decline of our occidental civilization, the outcome of the present global crisis is not predictable. The button that would release a thick swarm of lethal missiles crisscrossing the continents could well be pushed accidentally or by an undiagnosed military psychopath. But it need not. Good sense and vigilance might prevail. The nations of the world may even learn to cooperate in time to avoid the specter of economic disaster. That is the promise of the other half of the truth of our present-day situation.
Not all who speak up about the world crisis are prophets of doom. There are many who see new wine manifesting in old bottles. I have already mentioned Jean Gebser, Aurobindo Ghose, and Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. A long list of scholars and writers in the field of the humanities could be added. Among the better-known personalities that would have to be mentioned are Marshall McLuhan, Lewis Mumford, Pitirim A. Sorokin, Buckminster Fuller, Harold Schilling, Charles A. Reich, Abraham Maslow, Carl Rogers, Barbara Marx Hubbard, Theodore Roszak, and Marilyn Ferguson-each approaching this issue from his or her own unique perspective.
Marilyn Ferguson has made the latest attempt not so much to create a new overarching model for the emergent new conditions as to describe what she once called “The Movement That Has No Name.” Although in her widely acclaimed book The Aquarian Conspiracy she confines herself to charting the “leaderless but powerful network” of reform-minded professionals in different disciplines in the United States, the implications of her findings go clearly beyond the national boundaries of North America. The “Aquarian conspirators” are located in many other countries as well, including some that lie behind the invisible Iron Curtain.
The demolition of the medieval, Christian world-view by the Renaissance sciences left generations of people benumbed, in doubt, or anxiously clinging to demonstrably irrational beliefs. In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries the intelligentsia-no longer at ease with Christian dogmatism-found its haven in science, which was promptly converted into the pseudo-religion of scientism to meet the meager emotional expectations of the left-brained individual. The population at large, however, continued to profess the Christian faith while at the same time, particularly in the illiterate strata of society, deriving a great deal of practical meaning from astrology, magical healing, divination, and witchcraft-an almost schizoid split that is characteristic even of a large section of our contemporary society. (Significantly, there are about ten thousand “professional” astrologers in the U.S.A. as against some two thousand astronomers!)
The extreme rationalism of scientism, not surprisingly, is an unattractive diet to those who look for deeper meanings but for whom the religious establishment is remiss in supplying a wholly convincing way of life. Many do not have the independence of mind to openly confess their apostasy and so continue to pay lip service to their inherited religion. Still, over the last couple of decades church membership, never mind active participation, has overall dwindled significantly in nearly all industrialized countries of the Western hemisphere. The ecumenical spirit, which the anxious clergy hoped would be a timely panacea for their institutional problems, proved rather ineffective. While the great denominations are facing the increasing exodus of their flock, sectarian groups, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Pentecostal churches, are steadily recruiting members from among those who dread a fluid, open world and who need the apparent security of the tight, provincial framework of fundamentalist religion: Here seeking is ended before it has begun. Hence, transcendence becomes an impossibility.
If Christianity offered no solace, if the “revivalist” sects of Christianity and the “neo-orthodoxy” of Judaism proved too claustrophobic, if scientism did not satisfy the craving for existential meaning, and if the age-old superstitions and folk mythology were no more than poor substitutes taken with a pinch of salt or in desperation and anguish, then obviously a new answer had to be found. Natura abhorret vacuum, “Nature abhors a Vacuum”-at least human nature. At first it was hoped that the new discipline of psychology, chiefly in the form of psychoanalysis, could fill the gap left by the rapid decline of civic religion. That decline had of course been precipitated by psychology itself, which in a way led the criticism of religion by the natural sciences to its (bitter) end. However, psychoanalysis was not constituted of the same stuff that religions are made of and was even less equipped to counter existential anxiety and spiritual alienation. The principal reason for this failure was presumably the scientistic slant of psychoanalysis, with its positivistic model and behavioristic program for individual readjustment. Another important reason is, I think, the fact that despite its scientific pretensions, psychoanalysis has not freed itself from the weight of the peculiarly Hebrew and Christian preoccupation with the morbid side of our psychic life and the seemingly all-pervasive sense of guilt. Is it not the psychoanalyst’s sacred obligation to exorcise the demons of warped guilt, twisted Oedipal desires, other oppressive secrets, and a felt sense of unworthiness from the dark niches of the neurotic’s unconscious?
Nevertheless, psychoanalysis gave birth to a whole range of new therapies that, today, compete with each other to remedy the psychopathology of our ailing civilization. They are, or propose to be, the secular man’s answer to his spiritual emptiness. Their emphasis is on “personal growth,” “self- actualization,” “consciousness expansion,” “aliveness,” and “psychic health.” Dwelling as they do on the positive (if not hedonistic) side of human nature-on Man’s “potential,” his creative capacity, and his ability to live a “happy” life-these therapies understandably enjoy considerable popularity, augmented by the fact that many also surround themselves with a messianic aura. They tend to congeal into quasi- cults, with a charismatic, authoritarian leader in the center, whose patients actively live out the neurotic fantasy of “being as little children.” Even where such overt cultism does not occur, these therapies often indirectly encourage faddism and a mentality of dependence, which defeat their very raison d’être.
Their attraction lies to a large extent in the fact that they take the individual and his problems seriously, giving him an opportunity to tackle his difficulties and to explore himself on his own terms, without having to submit-so the ideology goes-to any external authority. In other words, the narcissistic person is met on his own ground as a consumer of therapeutic experiences. What could be a potentially rewarding approach to self-transcendence generally winds up being a kind of experiential merry-go- round that consoles and gratifies rather than helps to transcend the ego. Where these popular therapies break out of this fun-and-games milieu, they assume a distinctly religious complexion, the inspiration for which comes, as a rule, from one or the other authentic religious tradition of the East-Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, Hinduism, Tantrism, Yoga, Sufism.
In fact, one of the most significant metamorphoses today is the orientalization of the West. This is an immediate consequence of the expansion of Western economic and political interest into the East. Widespread disenchantment with Christianity, the first Eastern cult to take root in the occident, and the growing unease about scientific materialism has once again opened up the gates to the wisdom of the East. The ground for this cultural osmosis was prepared by the German romantic philosophers (Fichte, Schelling, etc.) and the American transcendentalists (Emerson, Thoreau, etc.) who influenced the English “metaphysical poets” (foremost Blake, Carlyle, and Coleridge). The activities of the Theosophical Society (founded in 1875), the dawn of Buddhist studies in Europe, and somewhat later the encyclopedic work of C. G. Jung proved singularly potent catalysts in this great process.
However, the influx of oriental ideas and values gathered critical momentum with the blossoming of the so-called “youth counter-culture” of the late sixties and early seventies, which superseded the rootless beatnik generation. Psychedelic experimentation, first vociferously advocated by Aldous Huxley, dealt the death blow to the conventional, if reactionary, attitudes of the earlier Teds, Mods, Rockers, and Skinheads. And it called into question the materialistic establishment itself. Yet, the Hippies and Flower Children grew into adults, many of whom became solid, law-abiding citizens after all. Still, the drug culture of that period, fired by the rebellious minds of Timothy Leary, Alan Watts, and Allen Ginsberg, has left indelible marks on American and European society and culture. These marks are partly wounds, partly auspicious signs.
In his book The Awareness Trap, Edwin Schur has drawn our attention to the dangers inherent in the contemporary movement toward what he calls “self-absorption”-the erroneous ideology of awareness as a panacea for all personal and social ills. Without wishing to underwrite Schur’s roundly pessimistic appraisal of the social value of individual growth, he rightly pointed out that most of these much- propagandized awareness techniques and programs are a mere travesty, and they all lack the spiritual soundness of the great religious and mystical traditions. Thus, they cannot be expected to heal the Western psyche from its civilizational malaise of “boredom, doubt, and discomfort” (Da Free John).
However, all this seeking over the past two decades has been positive inasmuch as it has greatly promoted the cause of the Eastern liberation teachings within our Western culture, thereby sensitizing us to a hitherto neglected dimension of human capability. Most significantly, typically oriental ideas have even penetrated the stronghold of our materialistic civilization-the scientific establishment. The “New Science,” like the new religions and quasi-religions, is remarkably orientalized. What is more, both the New Science and the new religions share another feature: They have strong liabilities.
Whereas the new therapies with their pseudo-religious pretensions are pointedly person-centered, the New Science continues the centuries-long fascination with the universe at large. Thus, they perpetuate, each in its own fashion, the artificial value-laden disjunction between individual and world, inner and outer universe. If the new therapies glorify experience and therefore irrationalism, the New Science, although it debunks the simplistic rationalism of the Newtonian paradigm that it endeavors to replace, still holds up the left-brained approach to reality. As always, therefore, scientists are exposing themselves to the anachronistic fallacy of mistaking the facsimile reality conjured up by thought for the Real Thing. Even though quantum physics is mirroring to them an inexhaustibly complex and ultimately inconceivable universe, they are quite undaunted by this. Indeed, their intellects are excited by the prospect of a never-ending voyage of inquiry, just as the experience-hungry therapists and their clientele are encouraged in their inward odyssey by the fact that the human personality is a vastly intricate, multidimensional system. The joy is in traveling, not in arriving, they say. But is it?
Self-exploration and the investigation of the world are basic forms of seeking. And seeking is, as Gautama the Buddha preached and as the modern Adept Da Free John reaffirms, a disease of the ego by which it struggles to block out the knowledge of its own mortality and suffering. But seeking itself is suffering, because it is an indirect affirmation of the fallacious sense of egoic separateness. This becomes clear when the search at last winds down. Before this is possible, however, Man must have come to at least a minimal understanding of the mechanism of individuation through which he singles himself out from the total ecology of existence.
Yet, the new therapies are unlikely to arrive at this point of recognition unless they desist from equating experienced reality with Reality. Likewise, the New Science must come to the understanding that a conceived or thought reality is not identical with Reality. This is an obvious point but one that does not appear to be heeded too much. Consequently, there is the very real danger that, in their exuberance over knowledge and experience, the new therapies and the New Science might blindly fall in love with each other and authenticate each other’s aspirations as alternative religions for the modern age. The guruism of the new therapies is all too apparent, and who would wager that the New Science does not carry the virus of pseudo-religious hubris from which scientism is suffering so mightily?
To be sure, the avant-garde researchers of the New Physics are eagerly turning to Eastern mysticism, delighting in the esoteric confirmations for the paradoxes of quantum phenomena. Gary Zukav writes:
The development of physics in the twentieth century already has transformed the consciousness of those involved with it. The study of complementarity, the uncertainty principle, quantum field theory, and the Copenhagen Interpretation of Quantum Mechanics produces insights into the nature of reality very similar to those produced by the study of eastern philosophy. The profound physicists of this century increasingly have become aware that they are confronting the ineffable.
But, as befits scientists of good standing, these physicists are confronting the Ineffable with the intellect, and therefore the changes in consciousness mentioned by Zukav are only skin-deep. They do not signal the kind of fundamental transformation of the whole being that results from a direct confrontation of the great Mystery, not merely by the mind and its homely icons, but by everything that Man represents, through immediate Realization of the Real. Master Da Free John offers this penetrating analysis of the cerebral approach:
Thinking about Reality is not the way to be in touch with It. Thinking is something you do by standing back: You contract, you turn away, you turn inside or become involved in the programmed mechanisms of the verbal mind, hoping to discover something that will give you some excuse, some reason for returning to Reality openly, for feeling good about it. You are trying to find some reason why you should surrender, why you should let go, why you should let yourself be vulnerable in the midst of this mortal circumstance.
The Eastern mystics to which modern physicists turn did not arrive at their ontologies by mere abstraction. Their philosophical ideas grew on the soil of mystical experience and were nourished, in at least some instances, by the ambrosia of ultimate Realization or perfect Enlightenment, which transcends all experiencing. Hence also their metaphysical structures, though apparently paralleling those of contemporary quantum physics, are firmly tied into Man’s moral life: They serve as maps of spiritual growth, if predominantly through mystical introversion.
While the interpretation of reality proposed by the New Science is to be welcomed, it is still limited and certainly provisional. Therefore, it would be premature to draw far-reaching conclusions purely on the basis of the current research and speculations. And yet, the knowledge of the New Science contains important cues for a healthy departure from the rationalist-mechanistic interpretation of Nature that continues to dominate much of contemporary thought and life. Nevertheless, the lack of a truly comprehensive understanding-informed not by opinion, belief, or wishful thinking but by Transcendental Realization-in the new therapies or religions and in the New Science greatly hampers their free development and ultimate usefulness for Man. Without the kind of radical orientation found in the Teaching of the Adept Da Free John, the new therapies are likely to fall victim to the “heresy” of religious provincialism, whereas the New Science is prone to succumb to the equally obnoxious error of scientism (perhaps not of the materialist brand, but with the same totalitarian pretensions).
5. THE SCIENTIST AS HUMAN BEING, AND THE OBLIGATION OF CONSCIOUS SPIRITUAL EVOLUTION
Science, like religion, is a human activity. In fact, it is an all-too human enterprise. Contrary to the popular stereotype, “the scientist” suffers the very same limitations and shortcomings that afflict most other people as well. Although his left-brained approach to life may suggest to intellectually less gifted members of our species that the scientist is a superior being, for the most part his abstract orientation is little more than a (seemingly successful) neurotic adaptation. This circumstance deserves to be fully appreciated, because it will shed light on the fateful development of science into scientism.
The mass of humanity lives either in childish dependence or adolescent reactivity to life, that is, in a state of emotional immaturity. Scientists, as Master Da Free John explains, fall characteristically into the latter category by dint of their lopsided intellectual “attack” on the material universe, which they quantify, manipulate, and now even forcibly disintegrate (in nuclear reactors and accelerators). An aesthetically more sensitive temperament might look upon the scientist’s experimentation as a brutalization of “Mother Nature”-thus hinting at the undoubtedly existing Oedipal overtones of scientific research.
In its program, science is the rational operation par excellence, and ratio belongs to the left cerebral hemisphere. However, in actuality, science is an activity that also involves, if only covertly, other sections of the brain. This means that scientific practice-however “pure” it endeavors to be-is always subject to nonrational factors as well. As biologist and science popularizer Carl Sagan put it:
In a way, science might be described as paranoid thinking applied to Nature: we are looking for natural conspiracies, for connections among apparently disparate data. Our objective is to abstract patterns from Nature (right-hemisphere thinking), but many proposed patterns do not in fact correspond to the data. Thus all proposed patterns must be subjected to the sieve of critical analysis (left-hemisphere thinking).
Sagan went on to say that he knew of “no significant advance in science that did not require major inputs from both cerebral hemispheres,” obviously hinting at the role of intuition, synthetic insight, and other integrative functions in scientific research. However, such nonrational-creative breakthroughs occur almost despite the scientist’s struggle to operate solely from the cognitive system associated with the left cerebral hemisphere. Because of the nature of his expectations, the scientist can be said to make a deliberate effort at inhibiting the right cerebrum, which is tantamount to a repression of the psychic dimension of the personality: intuition, imagination, subjectivity, sensuality, metaphoricalness, concreteness.
While analytical thinking is a valid and useful strategy or cognitive style, it must not become a habitual disposition. For, chronic exercise of the verbal, sequential mind is purchased at the expense of human emotion, or depth of feeling. Scientists are, generally speaking, personalities who are predisposed to emphasize (and overemphasize) the left side of our brain. Thus, Lawrence S. Kubie, a medical specialist at the Yale School of Medicine, made the astute observation that neurotic factors play an important role in the choice and the pursuit of a scientific career. He was even more specific than this:
There are significant relationships between masked neurotic components in the personality of an apparently normal scientist, and such things as (a) the field of work which he chooses; (b) the problems within that field which he chooses; (c) the clarity with which he habitually uses his native capacity for logical thinking; (d) the ways in which he attacks scientific problems; (e) the scientific causes which he espouses; (f) the controversies in which he becomes entangled and how he fights; and (g) the joy or sorrow which is derived from the work itself and also from his ultimate success or failure.
Since the unconscious is a ubiquitous force in the human personality, it is easy to see how neurotic vulnerabilities would color even a scientist’s basic observation of Nature, and subsequent testing and reasoning may only remove some of these initial distortions. This explains, at least in part, why some scientists miss important discoveries by a hair’s breadth, why they are resistant to new scientific discoveries, and also why there are “paradigms” and “paradigm shifts”: If there were such a thing as objective knowledge, reality would be known as it is, rather than as it appears to be in the successive frameworks of understanding. All knowledge has an a priori foundation, and that foundation is intimately connected with the psychological profile of the investigating subject.
Mostly, the theory-laden character of scientific “facts” remains concealed from us, but we are vividly reminded of it whenever we encounter a scientist suffering from exaggerated neuroses such as phobic indecisiveness or anxiety-driven curiosity (the equivalent to a handwashing compulsion, as Kubie pointed out). Most tragic of all is perhaps the pathological self-defeating strategy of those scientists who, though extraordinarily gifted, produce works of great ambiguity. “Some of these men,” remarked Kubie, “unconsciously designed their laborious experiments so as to prove nothing.” Judging from the annual spate of largely irrelevant publications, the conclusion lies at hand that the scientific population includes not a few such unfortunate neurotics-unless one were to explain the stockpiling of irrelevancies as a form of deliberate cynicism or sheer commercialism (to which scientists fall prey increasingly, dependent as most of them are on the good will of either Government or University).
Speaking of the social sciences specifically, Stanislav Andreski made the following acerbic comments about this syndrome:
What is particularly dismaying is that not only does the flood of publications reveal an abundance of pompous bluff and a paucity of new ideas, but even the old and valuable insights which we have inherited from our illustrious ancestors are being drowned in a torrent of meaningless verbiage and useless technicalities. Pretentious and nebulous verbosity, interminable repetition of platitudes and disguised propaganda are the order of the day….
Andreski’s devastating verdict applies, one suspects, with equal force to the natural sciences, whose professionals increase the mountain of mostly unread publications by several hundred thousand academic papers every year.
Are scientists, then, merely pitiable neurotics who are obsessed with knowledge and factual certainty via abstract thinking, nagged on by an overpowering urge to doubt? They are probably no more neurotic than the average non-scientist. However, the form their neurosis takes, and also the privileged socio-cultural position granted to scientists in our science-worshipping age, renders their neurotic liabilities far more perilous for society as a whole. For, it is the scientific “community” that largely determines the pace and direction of technology and thus, indirectly, the destiny of mankind. It is also the scientific community that typically arrogates to itself the right of passing final judgment on matters that clearly lie outside its province of competence-matters that characteristically concern the cognitive style associated with the right hemisphere of the brain.
Where scientists become obsessed with the mode of the left brain and the reality (or, rather, slice of reality) to which it grants access, they corrupt science into a science-based ideology-scientism. In that case they succumb to their neurotic liabilities. It is then that they also fall prey to what Daniel S. Greenberg called the “folkways” of the scientific community-“chauvinism,” “xenophobia,” and “evangelism.” The first member of this holy trinity is the tenacious belief that science is humanity’s greatest benefactor and that therefore it deserves cultural priority over other aspects of human life. By “xenophobia” is meant the irrational attitude of aversion felt by scientists towards “outsiders” who do not honor the scientistic ethos of submission to the formalities of research and who seem to slight the sacred “scientific method.” It is this dogmatic exclusiveness that has, for instance, so far curbed the free development of such a “fringe” discipline as parapsychology, which, of course, deals with manifestations of the much dreaded and repressed half of the brain. The proclivity of the scientific community towards elitist introversion is instinctively balanced by a strong tendency to proselytize: The scientist feels himself in possession of important truths that should be communicated to the lay world.
This motivation undoubtedly meshes with economic considerations: After all, it is the lay public that, in the last analysis, finances scientific research.
Of course, science is significant at this juncture in human history. But so long as the psychological susceptibilities of scientists are not fully recognized and handled, science is preordained to slide more and more into mere scientism. How can this be prevented? Lawrence S. Kubie recommended a major revision of scientific education, remarking that “nothing could be more important to science than that scientists should know themselves in the neo-Socratic or Freudian sense, that is, in terms of the interplay between their own conscious and unconscious processes.”
If this counsel were heeded, scientific work would in all probability undergo a dramatic change in approach, style, and possibly even content. Alfred North Whitehead, writing a quarter of a century earlier, tackled this issue from a somewhat different though compatible angle. He observed that only professionalized knowledge is effective, but that this has its inherent dangers: “It produces minds in a groove.” This, he further pointed out, causes “serious thought” to be confined to a small, select area or aspect of existence, whilst the “remainder of life is treated superficially, with the imperfect categories of thought derived from one profession.” The idiot savant who is a genius in his chosen discipline but an imbecile in all other areas, notably practical life, is a typical illustration of such aberrated specialization – the fragmentation of the psyche which parallels the fragmentation of knowledge.
Whitehead also called for an urgent revision of education. He fostered the balanced growth of the individual, which alone, as he saw it, would help to secure real wisdom. He addressed the need to overcome the methodological intolerance of science by means of art and aesthetic education, which includes the life of the spirit. But Whitehead was writing as a scientist-philosopher, not as an Adept. Consequently he had no clear and convincing guidelines to offer. This is the plight of all those who, like him, are acutely sensitive to the imbalances of modern life but even as they criticize the human condition are themselves embroiled in it.
The living wisdom of self-transcendence in its most radical or perfect form is not to be found in conventional religion or in stock prescriptions for self-knowledge or self-actualization. Why? Because conventional religion is ego-based, and the ego balks at the idea of its own negation. It disallows itself to contemplate the possibility of its own superfluousness. Hence self-improvement is substituted for self-transcendence, precisely because the former leaves the ego intact. But utter self-transcendence, or “ego death,” is not something that the self would naturally entertain.
And yet, as the German mystic-theologian Meister Eckehart, preaching about true obedience, observed:
When I do not want for myself, God wants for me. Hearken. What, then, does he want for me when I cease to want for myself? When I let go of my I, he must necessarily want all that for me which he wants for himself-neither more nor less and in the same manner that he wants for himself.
Eckehart, who was one of the first to preach in German rather than in obscure Latin, was well aware of the fact that his sermons would mostly fall on deaf ears. Nevertheless, he persisted in preaching about self-transcendence, which not surprisingly landed him in serious conflict with Pope John XXII. There is an ongoing debate whether Eckehart was merely an inspired theologian with mystical inclinations or actually a God-Realized individual. Be that as it may, he dared what few churchmen today venture to do: He fearlessly and energetically brought to his listeners the gospel of self-transcendence to the point of Realization.
Nowadays, almost seven centuries later, the ban on God-Realization is still in effect in the Christian churches as much as in any other conventional religion: The consumer mentality of the popular masses cries out for consolation rather than the wisdom of self-transcendence. People do not desire the Truth but are satisfied with the truths of secular understanding. Perhaps this has been so ever since the day when Man divorced religion from other forms of knowledge. Today we can witness the nadir of this development. On the one hand, the sacred or esoteric “knowledge” of religion is no longer kept alive in the great religious traditions, and on the other hand, secular knowledge is elevated to the status of Truth by the ideologues of scientism. But science deals in facts (which, contrary to popular opinion, are subject to change) and not in Truth, which is immutable. Thus, what scientists have to offer are more or less self-consistent and plausible representations of Reality, not Reality itself. Writes Gary Zukav:
“Reality” is what we take to be true. What we take to be true is what we believe. What we believe is based upon our perceptions. What we perceive depends upon what we look for. What we look for depends upon what we think. What we think depends upon what we perceive. What we perceive determines what we believe. What we believe determines what we take to be true. What we take to be true is our reality.
This is the more sophisticated view that a scientist might entertain. But what of Reality? If both conventional religion and science peddle in substitute truths only, where is Truth to be found? Master Da Free John gives this passionate answer:
If you want to learn about Truth when Truth has become corrupted, then go to an Adept. Go to one who has Realized the Truth. Go to one who has already fulfilled the process completely. If you live in a moment in time when there is no Enlightened Tradition, when all the cults are corrupt, you can be certain that somewhere on Earth an Adept is alive. Such a person appears under exactly those conditions, when Truth is no longer visible in the cults, and when religions have become so corrupted by history and fetishism that they are about to become extinct.
The religious traditions in our time are about to be smothered by a mechanistic, political, and scientific world-view, only because the cults are in doubt. They have held on to their fetishes so tenaciously that they have lost their association with the Living God. They do not even know the Living God anymore. People who belong to churches, religions, and spiritual societies have no unqualified connection with the Living Reality. There is no true devotion in them, and therefore, no Realization. Their association with God is only words and hopefulness. Therefore, they do not represent a living force in the world. They have nothing to offer that is Alive. Only the Adepts, who are God-Realized, through whom the living Power of God manifests, can make a difference in human time. Such individuals are the instruments for the acculturation of humanity.
Periodically, such individuals must appear, and they must be influential. There is a notion that Adepts should be hiding in caves in the wilderness. This is not true. If the Adepts do not speak, the only voice that will be heard is that of ordinary people who are not God-Realized. The Adepts are the Sources of spiritual life. Such individuals must therefore enter into the stream of society, to purify the culture and reestablish the process of God-Realization. If they do not speak and become influential, there is no hope at all for humanity.
The Transmission of Reality is the business of the Adept. The transmission of doubt is the scientist’s karmic concern. He hungers for certainty and yet shies away from absolutes; and rightly so, for there can be no absolutes in the finite or relative realm in which the scientific mind-games are played out, even though apparent absolutes creep into the picture occasionally anyway (e.g., the velocity of light). But the scientist, as human being, must ask himself why he is inclined to opt for doubt-the continuous interrogation of Nature-as his mood rather than as an occupation-specific method. Why is he obsessed with elaborating ever more “realistic” representations or symbolizations of Reality? Why does he automatically presume that Reality is inaccessible other than through models? Why does he prefer questions to answers? Why does he so distrust the testimony of the great Realizers or Adepts of mankind? Why does he generally project his energy and attention upon the external world? Why is he typically neglectful of inner life, the intangible psychic dimension?
Science is a falsely optimistic attempt to professionalize Man’s instinctive recoil from the Mystery of existence. This the scientist must see before he can make the transition from a mere data processing unit to a fully human being. And only when he has realized human maturity can he proceed to the real life-task of growing beyond ordinary humanness into a self-transcending entity in whom Reality itself becomes transparent. In other words, the scientist must learn to regard his life in the larger context of spiritual evolution and submit himself to the process of conscious maturation. If he does so, not only his life but also his work will assume a new significance.
The scholastics of the Middle Ages made a molehill out of a mountain by putting angels on pinheads and reducing the Great Matter to drivel. The scholars of our period vivisect the Body of God and the Sources of Enlightened Influence and mount them on pins for display, mocking them, making them into scapegoats, and crucifying them on the linear structures of language.
Clearly, once it is understood that the scientific enterprise does not stand apart from human life, but is an integral aspect of Man’s mortal existence, science will cease to be a mere handmaiden to technology or the private obsession of a small elite. Instead, it will acquire new premises, new objectives. Once science is conducted under the aegis of a culture that is committed to self-transcendence, it cannot but serve the enrichment of human life and facilitate the process of spiritual maturation of our species. What would science be like, and how would it contribute to the harmonious transformation of the human environment, if its practitioners were not self-possessed individuals competing for recognition or economic security and driven by subconscious forces, but Enlightened beings who were no longer engaged in a neurotic struggle for survival?
What happens to life when you are Awake, when you recognize conditional existence? Well, extraordinary siddhis are potentially associated with that Awakening. And that Awakening is the potential destiny of beings on Earth, although we are presently in an uncommonly crude epoch of evolution on this planet..
Even so, the demonstration of that destiny will not be realized in my lifetime, even if there exists a seventh stage community. The seed of it can, however, appear in my lifetime, and the appearance of that seed is what I am here to bring about. Eventually, that seed will lead to the development in the human plane of the extraordinary arts and sciences associated with Enlightenment and the native siddhis of Awakened existence. But until this Awakening moment or epoch is completed, the arts and sciences that may develop on its basis cannot become history, cannot become the structure of human destiny altogether.
Science is beginning to explore unusual possibilities, but it does so without Enlightenment, without acknowledging the inherent Immortality of existence, of Being Itself, and without tapping into the reservoir of infinite Being and infinite Energy at the level of human consciousness. What, then, is science producing? A bastardized culture associated with political materialism. Therefore, science is failing as a great benign device, failing to produce a golden age, because the Awakening epoch has not yet been completed. Science, in fact, is culturally predisposed to bypass the epoch of Awakening. It is simply trying to change conditions themselves without Realizing the Truth of existence.
Yet, if this Divine Awakening and science were to characterize humanity, there would exist the great art and science of Transformation, and a completely different kind of life would emerge on Earth. Now, when is that going to happen? This year? In the next couple of decades? Absolutely not!
And yet, as Master Da Free John affirms, this kind of spiritualization of human life, though it may take hundreds or perhaps even thousands of years, is our “native and inevitable” potential. Enlightenment is the great principle operative in the universe.
Existence is not for the purpose of Enlightenment. It seems so only when you are not yet Enlightened. But Enlightenment is the Principle of existence, and when there is Enlightenment; then the purpose of existence is obvious. The purpose of existence in manifest form is to Transform manifestation, to Transfigure existence, to glorify Being in form.