Opinion

Open Letter to Stephen Hawking

Dear Prof. Hawking:

Greetings. I am writing to you to express some of my misgivings about modern scientific cosmology, which—in my humble opinion—is filled with many unacknowledged contradictions.

If the universe is all there is—a statement I presume you agree with—then this “all” must include space. But if so, how then can the universe expand if there is no space outside it for it to expand into? Expansion or contraction can only be seen from, and measured against, some frame of reference that is “stationary” in relation to the object it is measuring. But if the universe is all there is, then no such outside frame of reference could exist, consequently the cosmos cannot be determined to be expanding. The redshift is usually interpreted as indicating that the galaxies are flying apart from each other—but flying apart into what? Into something beyond the boundaries of the universe? Into something beyond all that is?

This is one of the many insoluble paradoxes that modern physics seems careful to avoid, but is nonetheless always posing. When we speak of the “size” or “expansion” or “age” of the universe, we always imagine it as existing as an object WITHIN our familiar dimensions of space and time. But it does not exist within space and time—it IS space and time. If the universe comprises all the space there is, then it cannot expand INTO space; if it comprises all the time there is, then it cannot have begun IN time, because there could have been no time “before” it existed for it to begin in. In other words, if the universe is all there is, it cannot be viewed and measured as if it were a discrete object. And if you answer that it can be so viewed by virtue of “thought experiments” constructed by human beings, then you are positing the human intellect as something that transcends the universe, just as God is said to do. Meister Eckhart would certainly agree.

Answer this if you can; meanwhile, I’ll propose you a second conundrum:

Modern physics has totally dispensed with the notion of uniform space, since space is warped by gravitational fields, and also with the notion of uniform time, since time expands or contracts based on the acceleration or deceleration of the observer. But if this is so, how then can you speak of what must have happened “three minutes” or “three seconds” or “a millionth of a second” after the Big Bang? If, as you claim, space has been expanding since then (though into what I can’t imagine), if all material objects—as soon as there were such things—have, on average, been flying apart from each other at (the last I heard) an ever-accelerating velocity, then spacetime must have had a radically different quality in the early universe, such that the measurements we call “minutes, seconds” could in no way be applied to it. A minute or a second is a specific fraction of some standard of periodic motion, such as the turning of the earth on its axis (itself variable) or the orbit of the earth around the sun (also variable)—or else some specific multiple of a higher-frequency periodic motion, such as the vibration of a quartz crystal or a cesium atom. But immediately after the Big Bang, and for quite a while after that apparently, there were no such things as planets to turn on their axes, or stars to be orbited by planets, or any sorts of crystals, or any sorts of atoms. And so—given that modern physics has annihilated the concept of uniform time—how can you apply such measurements as “minutes, seconds” to conditions of the early universe? Certainly no-one can prove you wrong, since any potential critic would need to return to the early universe to take the necessary measurements, which is impossible—but then, by the same token, you would need to make such the same impossible journey yourself to prove your own theories—and if you say that the cosmic microwave background gives us an accurate “snapshot” of the state of the universe over 13 billion “years” ago, I reply that this is only a working assumption, not a provable fact. How convenient for us (for you especially) that we now have authoritative pronouncements, said to be based on “the scientific method”, that can neither be the subject of actual measurements of the conditions we feel at liberty to pronounce upon, nor in any way be subjected to “repeatable experiments”, those sacred operations upon which the whole scientific method is said to be based! So: How can you apply to the early universe various (relatively) uniform units of measurement that can only be derived from a much later universe, especially in the absence of any uniform flow of time that could adjust the measure to the thing measured?

My third and last challenge is as follows:

If, according to Richard Feynman, “a system has not just one history, but every possible history”—and if, according to you, “M-theory [Prof. Hawking’s ultimate material explanation for everything] is not a theory in the usual sense [but a] whole family of different theories, each of which is a good description of observations only in some range of physical situations”—then are you not essentially saying that “M-theory is not just one theory, but every possible theory”? And is a conglomeration of all possible theories really any kind of theory at all? If every physical system is made up of every one of its possible histories, then, in order to deal with this complexity, would we not be forced to also allow that every mental system, every explanation, is necessarily made up of every one of its possible conceptual variations? The essence and use of a true theory, however, is that it is a single concept that unifies many facts, many possibilities, many measurements; if we are forced to define a theory as the set of all its possible variations—which your notion of M-theory seems to imply—then it is no longer a theory in the proper sense of the word, no longer an explanation. It is merely a series of ad hoc conceptual responses to an indeterminate set of probable measurements. So you would seem to be the patron and agent not only of a postmodern deconstruction of corporeal reality, but also of a similar deconstruction of the very notion of an intelligible physical theory capable of explaining that reality, neatly disguised under your “M-theory” notion. If physical theory begins to mimic the underlying chaos of probabilistic indeterminacy that it discerns on the material plane by itself becoming chaotic on the conceptual plane, the whole idea of natural law is called into question.

I would be delighted to receive, and ponder, any responses you might wish to make to these challenges.

 

Sincerely,

Charles Upton

 

œ ATTENTION 

For an infinitely more sophisticated and well-informed treatment of issues such as these, see the books of Dr. Wolfgang Smith, particularly The Quantum Enigma and Science and Myth: What We are Not Told.  His work is introduced on his website, www.philos-sophia.org, where you can also view the trailer for his upcoming motion picture, The End of Quantum Reality. Dr. Smith —a physicist, metaphysician, and traditional Catholic who developed the equations that allow spacecraft to re-enter the Earth’s atmosphere without burning up—is the author of

 the most powerful refutation of Stephen Hawking to date (published as an appendix to Science and Myth), and he’s now setting his sights on Albert Einstein.

Meet him at:  www.philos-sophia.org,

On Psychedelics and/or Entheogens: Drug-Induced Mysticism Revisited

[Samuel Bendeck Sotillos interviewing Charles Upton, excerpted from Vectors of the Counter-Initiation: The Course and Destiny of Inverted Spirituality Sophia Perennis, 2012; All notes by Samuel Bendeck Sotillos]

[Samuel Bendeck Sotillos:]

Charles Upton (b. 1948)[1] poet, author, activist, and veteran of the counter-culture has voyaged and experienced firsthand the many facets of the New Age cul-de-sac and its pitfalls which are all too often ignored. Psychedelics[2] or hallucinogens, now termed entheogens[3], have played a pivotal role in the modern and postmodern seekers quest to circumvent the trappings of the empirical ego and attain Self-Realization since the 1960s. After a hiatus of nearly thirty years, psychedelic research has now made a revival, which should provoke much inquiry as to what underlies this phenomenon.  It is interesting to note that the New Age Movement, the Human Potential Movement, Humanistic Psychology and Transpersonal Psychology all emerged in a common setting; they do not only share many similarities but have also assisted in each other’s development. For example, the English writer Aldous Huxley (1894-1963) could be said to be a single figure connecting of all of the above movements via his popularizing the perennial philosophy and his writings on psychedelics, both of which are acknowledged by the above movements and or disciplines. Huxley not only helped shape each of the above but provided an integrative theory in which they could take root. That said, while he popularized the perennial philosophy he is not considered to be a traditionalist or perennialist.

Where Mr. Upton parts ways with his New Age and counter-culture comrades is that since his introduction to the works of the traditionalist or perennialist school—most significantly René Guénon (1886-1951), Frithjof Schuon (1907-1998) and Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy (1887-1947)—he has affiliated himself with this orientation. Mr. Upton has written numerous books and articles on traditional metaphysics and the perennial philosophy, most noteworthy is: The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age (2001). Although he has abandoned the practices of his early search in the New Age and counter-culture movements, he acquired an abundant knowledge and understanding of these pseudo-spiritualties and is in a commendable position to inform and also caution contemporary seekers. Mr. Upton is a committed Muslim and a practitioner of Sufism and simultaneously acknowledges the “transcendent unity of religions”. The following interview offers a unique look at psychedelics in the light of the perennial philosophy by way of perennialist theory and also personal accounts of the author. This interview was conducted by electronic correspondence during March, April and May of 2011.

SBS: Perhaps we could begin with the central perennialist critique with regards to what has been termed—“consciousness expansion”, “altered states of consciousness”, “non-ordinary states of consciousness”—which distinguishes the psychic from the spiritual;[4] it is this critique that many readers outside the perennialist or traditionalist circles will not be familiar with yet it is has created the greatest amount of confusion for contemporary seekers.[5] Would you mind elaborating on this fundamental distinction which has profound implications with regard to recognizing authentic spirituality versus pseudo-spirituality or New Age spirituality?

Charles Upton: The psychic or intermediary plane is the world of subjectivity; the Spiritual plane is objectivity itself. As the psychic world is higher than the material world and encompasses it, so the Spirit is higher than both psyche and matter, and encompasses them. The psychic world is made up of beliefs, perceptions, impressions, experiences; the Spiritual world is composed of certainties—of things that are true even if we are not certain of them. When Beat Generation poet Lew Welch said, “I seek union with what goes on whether I look at it or not”, he was positing the level of Spirit. The psychic plane is relatively objective in that it is not enclosed within the individual psyche; as Jung demonstrated, it also has a collective aspect. This collectivity is not limited to a mass human subjectivity or “collective unconscious”, however; it is host as well to many classes of non-human beings, including those the Greeks called the daimones, the Northern Europeans, the Fairies, and the Arabs, the Jinn. It carries nothing less than the impressions of the experiences of all sentient beings.

The psychic plane is the (relatively) objective environment of the human psyche, just as the earth is the (relatively) objective environment of the human body. Our apparently individual subjectivity is co-extensive with innumerable other subjectivities, both human and non-human; as Huston Smith said, “the brain breathes thoughts like the lungs breathe air.” But it remains essentially subjective for all that; it is the realm of experiences, not realities. An experience is an impression of an objective reality, either material or Spiritual, as received by a limited subject, an impression that is edited by the inherent or acquired limitations of the subject experiencing it. It is phenomenon, not noumenon. Whatever relatively objective data can be accessed through psychic means (clairvoyance, precognition etc.) always pertains to contingent entities immersed in one form or another of space and time, linear or multidimensional; eternal realities cannot be intuited by psychic means.

The Spiritual plane, on the other hand, is purely objective. It is not composed of our impressions, but of things we have impressions of—of noumena that transcend sense experience and do not depend for their existence upon our awareness of them, just as—on the level of sense experience—the mountain outside our window is really there, whether or not we happen to be looking at it. The Spiritual plane is the realm of the first intelligible manifestations or “names” of God—of metaphysical principles that are not simply abstract ideas, but living realities that have the power, under the proper conditions, to dominate, guide, purify and conform our psyches to them—to “save our souls”.

So Spiritual realities transcend subjective experience. But if we never experienced them, they would not be effective to enlighten us and save us. Spiritual experiences, then—what the Sufis call the ahwal or spiritual states (which are necessary elements of the Spiritual Path) are psychic experiences grounded not in the psychic subjectivity of the one experiencing them but in objective realities that transcend the realm of sense—in the Names of God. To be subject to a Spiritual state is to have a direct intellective intuition of an objective Spiritual reality that transcends the state in question, one that the subjective state by which it is intuited will always both veil and reveal; and if Spiritual realities partially transcend our subjective experience of them, God transcends our experience of Him absolutely. To experience God is to be called to immediately transcend that necessarily limited experience of Him, and come into naked existential contact with Him as He is in Himself, beyond all experience; as the Sufis put it, “the human being does not know God in His Absolute Essence; it is God who knows Himself within the human form.” The Sufi practice of contemplating God in this manner is known as fikr, which might be defined as “the ongoing sacrifice of every conception of the Absolute, generated by the Absolute, in the face of the Absolute.”

So we can say that Spiritual realities are objective, and that God, the Source of all such realities, is the Absolute Object. But “object” here does not mean “whatever is perceived by a limited subject as other than itself”; taken in this sense, “object” is relative to that limited subject and so partakes of its subjectivity. God as Absolute Object is equally the indwelling Divine Subject, the Absolute Witness, what the Hindus name the Atman, what Frithjof Schuon calls “the absolute Subject of our contingent subjectivities.” The Absolute Witness stands “behind” all psychic experience, impassively witnessing them, not identifying with them; here is the precise difference between the psyche and the Spirit.

We cannot reach God through the psyche, through experience; the essence of the Spiritual Path is to place ourselves in the presence of God, and let Him reach us. He may do this through experiences, through events, or through a secret action within the soul that we aren’t even aware of. The function of spiritual experiences or states is not to “enrich the soul” with fascinating impressions of the Divine, but to burn out specific aspects of the ego, specific attachments and identifications; this is why the realized Sufi, the one who has transcended himself, died to himself, become objective to himself—or rather to the Absolute Witness within him—is beyond spiritual states entirely.

SBS: Following up with this point, what can you say about the assumption that the pursuit of expanding consciousness or achieving an altered state of consciousness is an end unto itself, as if it was a desirable human norm which contradicts perennial principles—“The goal is not altered states but altered traits.”[6] This perilous approach often involves an ad hoc mixture of spiritual techniques rather than a persistent adherence to one orthodox spiritual form.[7] Could you please speak to this puzzling development?

CU: This is all a kind of council of desperation, as well as an indication that the breakdown of the traditional revealed religions, leading to a One-World Religion made up out of the resulting fragments—a development that will culminate in the regime of Antichrist—is proceeding right on schedule.[8]

As religion degenerates, the felt sense of the reality of God is progressively replaced by an obsession with morality for its own sake, and with religious fervor considered as an end in itself, both taken out of their own proper context. No longer is moral purity felt to be something we naturally owe to God in view of His love for us and of the fact that He created us, something that prevents us from falling into the ingratitude of worshipping the passions as idols in His place; now morality has become an idol in itself. By the same token, fervor has lost sight of the God Who supposedly inspires it; it has become a substitute for His felt presence rather than a response to it. In a lot of contemporary Protestant hymns, for example—or rather contemporary “Christian pop” songs—the singer sings primarily about his or her own feelings, not about God. Likewise various “consciousness studies” programs now available in academia tend to concentrate on subjective states of consciousness, as well as the belief-systems that support them and the techniques by which they can sometimes be produced, rather than understanding  spiritual states as  reflections of an  objective  metaphysical order,  and  thus as instances of knowledge rather than simply experience. According to Sufi doctrine, spiritual states are not acquisitions but gifts of God. He sends them in order to “burn out” specific passions, attachments and ego-knots; after the attachment in question is dissolved, that particular state does not return. For example, a habit of neurotic fear, burnt out by a state (hal) of ecstatic love, is transformed into a station (maqam) of courage and equanimity; a temporary “state” has resulted in an established “trait”. And the fully-realized Sufi is said to be beyond both states and stations, since he no longer maintains any separative ego which could be the subject of them; he has attained objective metaphysical realization.

When traditional faith is strong, it is a source of security and certainty for the faithful; they feel that they are in the presence of sacred mysteries, mysteries that they can rely upon but need not pry into. But when traditional religions weakens, then certain people who would have otherwise been spiritually satisfied simply to live within a sacred tradition and ambience, and who would have saved their souls thereby, conceive the desire for a direct mystical relationship with God so as to make up for what has been lost—a relationship that may not in fact be proper to them.  They imagine that such a relationship could only result from some extravagant spiritual tour-de-force—and psychedelic drugs immediately appear as a plausible way of taking that tour. But the psychedelics, as well as various spiritual techniques such as secularized non-traditional yoga, are often approached on the basis of the very false and limiting context that people are seeking them in order to free themselves from: of the spiritual life as an exercise in self-will (as in the case of compulsive morality), and of God conceived as an experience rather than a Reality (as in the case of self-referential fervor; the New Age movement for example, which deifies experience, can be described as a kind of “non-Christian Pentecostalism”). In the absence of a felt sense of the Grace of God based upon faith, which St. Paul calls “the presence of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen”, nothing is possible in the spiritual life outside of the Promethean attempt to take heaven by storm, and spiritual narcissism—two pathologies which are intimately related to each other and never appear apart. The will cut off from the spiritual Intellect (which is always virtually in force wherever Faith and Grace are present) produces Prometheanism; the alienation of the affections from the Intellect produces narcissism.

It is highly interesting that psychedelic drugs burst upon the scene at precisely the same moment that the Second Vatican Council was abolishing traditional Roman Catholicism and deconstructing the sacramental order. It’s as if the grace of the Roman Catholic sacraments, while they were still intact, overflowed their specifically Catholic context and maintained a certain level of elevation in the “collective unconscious” of the western world, an elevation which was rapidly lost when that grace was cut off. Faced with a sudden unconscious or half-conscious sense of spiritual loss, and the stifling sensation that always results when the psyche is cut off from the plane of the Spirit, the western collectivity became susceptible to the temptation of psychedelics, which at the very least can provide (though not without extremely negative consequences) a horizontal psychic expansiveness which appears to compensate for, and sometimes actually counterfeits, the loss of a vertical spiritual elevation, while at the same time concealing the fact that such a loss ever occurred. Psychedelics, in other words, were a kind of Luciferian “booby prize” offered as compensation for the fall of western Christendom.

SBS: A compelling case that the psychedelic advocates and researchers make is that because psychoactive properties are naturally occurring in a number of plants (and even endogenous to the human body)[9] which have been used in sacred rituals throughout the world since time immemorial[10]Soma hypothesized to be the Fly Agaric mushroom (Amanita muscaria), Teonanácatl—Náhuatl, language of the Aztecs: “God’s flesh” or “flesh of the gods” (Psilocybe mexicana), Peyote cactus (Lophophora williamsii),[11] San Pedro cactus (Trichocereus pachanoi),[12] Ololiuqui (Turbina corymbosa) and Tlililtzin (Ipomoea violacea) seeds of a Morning Glory, Ibogaine or Iboga (Tabernanthe iboga), Ayauasca or Yajé (Banisteriopsis caapi), Kykeon made with Ergot (Claviceps paspali and Claviceps purpurea), Henbane (Hyoscyamus niger), Belladonna (Atropa belladonna), Mandrake (Mandragora officinarum), Datura, Brugmansia, Ska Pastora (Salvia divinorum), Pituri (Duboisia hopwoodii), etc.—some advocates or researchers have explicitly or implicitly claimed that they have been the precursors to the foundation of religion itself.[13] These mind-altering plants have been suggested to be the central components of Soma of the Rig Veda or Hoama/Homa of the Avesta identified as none other than the mushroom Amanita muscaria[14] and the principal rite of the Eleusinian Mysteries (Plato, Aristotle and Epictetus were said to have been initiates) utilizing Kykeon purported to be the fungus ergot which contains psychoactive alkaloids such as LSD (lysergic acid diethylam- ide)[15]; it has also been asserted that that Manna of the Hebrew Bible was a psychedelic[16], the use of psychoactive mushrooms have also been ascribed to the cult of Mithras[17], and said to be used in ancient Egypt[18], even the origins of Christianity and Christ himself are hypothesized to be the mushroom Amanita muscaria.[19] What are your thoughts on this important discussion?

CU: Since religions are founded by Divine action through prophets and avatars (Buddhism possibly excepted yet Gautama Buddha is considered to be the ninth Avatar of Lord Vishnu within the Hindu tradition), to say that they have been initiated by psychedelics is to deny that God can act on His own initiative, and consequently to deny God. It is to make “religion” an entirely human affair, and thus to posit something that does not fit the definition of that word. No religious tradition claims to have been founded on the basis of psychedelic experience; such claims emanate from users of psychedelics who like to project their fantasies upon traditions they in no way intend to follow. Anyone who thinks that Moses met God on Sinai or Jesus became “Christ” after eating some mushroom, because how else could they have done it, has no sense of the sacred whatsoever. Within certain contexts and in certain yugas it might have been spiritually possible to open initiates to the graces of an already established spiritual Way through the use of psychedelics, but such things are certainly not possible to us in our own time, except at great cost—and with what coin could we pay that cost, poor as we are? In any case it is certain that the establishment of a legitimate spiritual Way through the use psychedelics has never been either possible or necessary.

SBS: While the perennial philosophy acknowledges the Shamanic traditions of the First Peoples, a central challenge to the notion that entheogens or psychedelics have been used since the beginning of time is that the “beginning of time” or “pre-history” which some suggest to be around 5000 BC[20], when contextualized within cyclical time it is likely to be the Kali-Yuga or the Iron Age, the culmination of this temporal cycle or at best the Dvapara Yuga or Bronze Age, the phase preceding the final age.[21] Thus the use of sacred plants that have psychoactive properties occurred late in the cosmic cycle (manvantara) and not at its inception, the Krita-Yuga or Satya-Yuga, known as the Golden Age in Western cosmology which would support prominent historian of religion, Mircea Eliade’s (1907-1986) astute observation: “the use of intoxicants…is a recent innovation and points to a decadence in shamanic technique.[22] Could you please elaborate on the perennialist perspective with regards to this point?

CU: I agree with Eliade’s initial view of psychedelics; when a spiritual tradition degenerates there is no telling what people will try in order to regain what is felt to be lost. Perhaps, God willing, something can be partially regained through psychedelics under certain cosmic conditions—conditions we certainly do not enjoy today—but the very attempt to regain a former spiritual exaltation is evidence of a degeneration. The Krita-yuga was characterized by a “mass theophanic consciousness” in which psychedelics were not needed; in the words of Genesis, mankind “walked with God in the cool of the evening”. In my view (and I am open to correction), Shamanism came in with the Treta-yuga or Silver Age, when the cosmic environment was subject to imbalances due to demonic incursions that the Shamans—as they them- selves maintain, according to Eliade—were sent by God to correct. And as the Shamans of our own time have asserted, also according to Eliade, their ancestors were immensely more powerful than they, and didn’t need psychedelics; so the use of the psychedelic “crutch” undoubtedly came in later than the Shamanic dispensation itself. Also of great interest is the fact that the Christian visionary and stigmatist Anne Catherine Emmerich, [1774-1824], in her book The Life of Christ and Biblical Revelations [1979], based on her visions, mentions an early non-Biblical patriarch called Hom, who was either named after, or provided a name for, a particular plant he considered to be sacred. This plant, in my opinion, is the Haoma plant of the ancient Persians, equivalent to the Vedic Soma. According to Emmerich, the lineage that sprang from Hom, which included one Dsemschid (undoubtedly the legendary Persian king Jamshid), became polluted with Satanic fantasies, though she apparently did not recognize the plant in question as an intoxicant. It is highly unlikely that Emmerich, a nearly illiterate Westphalian peasant, would have known anything about Persian history or Zoroastrian lore, much less about the effects of exotic psychedelics. So it may well be true that the use of such plants, at least beyond the cosmic era that might have allowed their use under certain conditions, represents a truly ancient deviation in humanity’s relationship with God. (It must not be forgotten, however, that according to René Guénon and Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, Soma and Haoma, in their higher symbolic sense, are not psychoactive plants but the source of the “Draught of Immortality” which effects the return of the Human Form to its fitra, its primordial Edenic state before the Fall. In other words, they symbolize a particular stage of spiritual realization.)

As for Eliade’s later notion that psychedelic ecstasy is identical to ecstasy produced by other means, I speculate that he said this only because he experienced psychedelics himself and had nothing else to compare them to. He was an incomparable scholar of religion, but he had no religious faith; he characterized religions, myths and metaphysical beliefs as “artistic creations” referring to no objective reality; he placed them on the psychic plane, not the Spiritual.

SBS: There is the notion that the use of peyote (Lophophora williamsii) via the syncretistic Native American Church (NAC) is compatible with other traditional Shamanic rites which did not originally utilize this plant medicine. For example, there are some that suggest that the Sun Dance Religion is compatible with peyote use (some have even introduced Ayauasca or Yajé into this sacred ritual)[23], yet traditional spiritual authorities within these communities, such as medicine man and Sun Dance chief, Thomas Yellowtail (1903-1993) suggest quite the opposite, that they are not compatible and that such syncretism or mixing of foreign elements such as peyote are in fact dangerous and could be spiritually harmful[24], not to mention that they do not do justice to either spiritual way and end up watering each tradition down, ultimately leading to the demise of both. Do you have any thoughts on this?

CU: Yellowtail was right.

SBS: In conjunction with the amalgamation of Native American Church (NAC) there is also the phenomena of the psychoactive brew Ayauasca or Yajé from South America which has been widely exported throughout the world made extensively available through the syncretic churches of Santo Daime founded by Mestre Irineu or Raimundo Irineu Serra (1892-1971)[25] and União do Vegetal (Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal or UDV) founded by Mestre Gabriel or José Gabriel da Costa (1922-1971) combining Catholicism, Spiritism of Allan Kardec (1804-1869), African and South American shamanism.[26] In conjunction with this, we need to also mention that the search for mystical experiences has also brought about the phenomenon of “spiritual tourism”[27] to remote parts of the Amazon basin that has its damaging effects on the traditional societies living in these areas, extending itself to all sapiential traditions. Could you speak to these interesting phenomenon’s which is unquestionably a hallmark of New Age thought?

CU: To syncretize different forms of the sacred, assuming that they were originally true Spiritual ways, not simply psychic “technologies”, is to relativize and subjectivize them and thus drive everything down to the psychic level while sealing off access to the Spirit; and this is tantamount to demonic invocation. And even if the practices in question are fundamentally psychic to begin with, mixing them can only generate further chaos. Spiritual Unity is higher than psychic multiplicity and encompasses it, but once the Unity of the Spirit is veiled, the idea becomes: “You mean you only have one god? You are spiritually deprived! We have hundreds” —the “reign of quantity” with a vengeance! The problem with this approach is that no one of these many gods can be the Absolute Reality, or even a psychic symbol for it—given that, by definition, you can’t have more than one Absolute. And the psychic chaos created by mixing African and South American shamanism with Catholicism and European spiritualism can only be compared to playing the music of Bach, the Moody Blues, Charlie Parker and Inti Illimani all at the same time—a practice that could only destroy all presence of mind and unity of soul in the listener. Of course some people like that kind of thing; instead of transcending their individuality through Spiritual ascent, they simply want to shatter it, and consequently sink below it, into the infra-psychic. It’s called “postmodernism”.

And spiritual tourism in places like the Amazon damages not only the indigenous cultures but the tourists too. (I recently saw a news item where one village prohibited such tourism; a villager characterized the North American strangers who’d visited them and immediately asked to be told all about the local sacred rituals and beliefs as, in effect, “creepy”.) When well-heeled Norteamericanos and Europeans enter dirt poor villages in the Amazon and elsewhere looking to satisfy their spiritual hunger, a hunger based on their abandonment and betrayal of their own spiritual tradition (usually Christianity), they tempt the village elders to what traditional Catholics call the sin of simony: selling sacred things for money. Spiritual tourists are by and large not pilgrims but thieves, vampires. In most cases they aren’t looking for a spiritual Path to dedicate their lives to, but simply picking up here and there whatever sacred art objects, or psychedelic experiences, or sacred rituals degraded to the level of mere spectacle, might suite their fancy—if, that is, they aren’t actually sorcerers in search of “personal power”. Very often their basic set is psychic rather than spiritual; like most tourists, they are looking for “experiences”, not principles to live by. They leave behind them the destructive influences of their own profane postmodern attitudes, and return home polluted with the toxic psychic residues of the forms of the sacred they have plundered, so as to release them to do their damage within their own cultures.

SBS: Another important point to discuss is that while there are traditional Shamanic societies who today still utilize psychoactive plants in their sacred rites—i.e. the Huichol, Tarahumara, Cora, Mazatec, Bwiti, Kayapó, Fang, Mitsogo, Jivaro, Yanomami, Koryak, etc.—this does not necessarily mean that those outside these racial and ethnic groups will also have the same spiritual and beneficial response with the use of these plants.[28] It is as if the different indigenous peoples were given different plant medicines particular to their human makeup and ecological context. Could you please speak to this sensitive theme as it is perhaps “politically incorrect”?

CU: This is undoubtedly true in many cases. If the invocation of the name Allah should not be expected to be spiritually fruitful for a Buddhist, then by the same token the use of certain psychoactive plants outside of their traditional cultural and ritual context is not likely to have the same effect as it would within those contexts, and will most likely have a much more negative one. Such psychic and cultural bleed-throughs may be accurately compared to the breakdown of discrete and self-contained ecosystems. Asian carp are fine in Asia; in the Great Lakes they are a disaster. And those who hope to benefit from the sacred worldviews of the Huichols, the Tarahumara, the Native American Church should be willing to live under the same conditions of deprivation and oppression and social marginalization as the Huichols and the Tarahumara and the Native American Church. If you want the spirituality of the Res, accept the suffering of the Res.

Shamanism, even relatively degenerate Shamanism[29], has a certain practical justification under truly primitive conditions, since it represents a large portion of the technological heritage of the tribe. The Shaman heals disease, finds and attracts game, carries on criminal investigations, influences the weather, protects the tribe in war and guards it against psychological imbalances and/or demonic incursions. But under modern conditions, when at least some of these functions can be fulfilled by other means, Shamanism loses a certain amount of its raison d’être. French poet and cinematographer Jean Cocteau [1889-1963] recounts the story of an anthropologist who was studying native folkways in Haiti, where trees are (or were) used for long-distance communication; when a woman’s husband was away at market, she might send a message to him by speaking to a tree, and receive his answer by the same means. When the anthropologist asked the natives why they spoke to trees, their answer was: “Because we are poor. If we were rich we should have the telephone”.

In my opinion, those persons of the postmodern West whose psychophysical nature is not already fully integrated into the Spirit, or at least fully submissive to It—a condition extremely rare in our time—should never touch the Shamanism of the primal cultures, since westerners lack the protection provided by the basic spiritual set and character-formation of those cultures. The rare and exceptional case is that of the person who, by the grace of God, has found and been accepted not simply by a working traditional Shaman or medicine man, but a true holy man of one of the primal spiritual Ways—though how he or she could recognize such a holy man in the first place is hard to imagine.

SBS: You have undertaken an in-depth study of UFO phenomenon in light of traditional metaphysics in your book Cracks in the Great Wall (2005).[30] There are numerous writers and researchers within the psychedelic world who claim that there is a connection between the psychedelic experience and UFO’s sightings and/or abductions, especially for those who use the substance DMT (dimethyltryptamine).[31] To many this might be the siren call or the advent of the New Age, but to the exponents of the perennial philosophy this has the characteristics of the Kali-Yuga written all over it. Could you please speak to this?

CU: As I see it, the UFO “aliens” are denizens of the intermediary or psychic plane, what Muslims call the Jinn. So it is not surprising that the use of psychedelics could make one more vulnerable to incursions from that world. René Guénon in The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times [1953] spoke of “fissures” appearing in the “Great Wall” separating the material plane from the intermediary plane, fissures that open our world to “infra-psychic” forces; to me the UFO phenomenon is a perfect example of this process. These fissures appear due to cyclical degeneration and the approaching dissolution of our world, but they are further widened and exploited by human activity, sometimes unconscious, sometimes deliberate. I believe that such things as the spread of the electronic media, including the internet, the liberation of nuclear energy, the use of psychedelics and the general fascination with psychic powers and the paranormal continue to widen the cracks in the Great Wall, which, since it acts as the border between the material and the psychic worlds, can be affected by both material and psychic means; the very fact that such powerful psychic experiences can be produced by a material substance like LSD undoubtedly furthers this process. And it is interesting in this context that, according to Timothy Leary [1920-1996], LSD was not “activated” as a psychedelic until the first atomic bomb was detonated in New Mexico. (On the material side, this border apparently has something to do with the electromagnetic spectrum, which is why automobile engines will often die and electronic equipment malfunction in close proximity to a UFO.) Furthermore, those people Guénon called “agents of the Counter-Initiation”[32] are working to widen the cracks in the Great Wall consciously and deliberately.

The case of pioneer rocket scientist Jack Parsons [1914-1952] comes immediately to mind. Parsons was a follower of black magician Aleister Crowley [1875-1947] and an associate of L. Ron Hubbard [1911-1986], another follower of Crowley, who founded the Church of Scientology and who also (according to my correspondence with Beat Generation writer William Burroughs [1914-1997] in the late 1960’s, when Burroughs was in the process of breaking with Scientology)  had a background in Naval Intelligence, something confirmed by Peter Levenda in his trilogy Sinister Forces: A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft. Parsons, according to UFOlogist Jacques Vallée [b. 1939] in his book Messengers of Deception [1979], claimed to have met a “Venusian” in the Mojave Desert; according to Levenda he performed Pagan rituals at his launchings. He went on to co-found both the Aerojet Corporation and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory; a crater was named after him on the dark side of the Moon. Parsons openly stated that he was working to open a “door” into another dimension; it was shortly after his Mojave Desert rituals that the first major post-WWII civilian sightings of UFOs occurred in North America, through of course there is no way of knowing if the two are related. (In the careers of Crowley, Parsons and Hubbard we can see clear indications of the action of the Counter-Initiation.)[33] So conscious or unconscious “invocations” of the Jinn appear to be a major factor in the breakdown of the energy-wall between the material and the intermediary plane; such invoca- tions are undoubtedly inspired by the Jinn themselves, specifically the kafir or unbelieving Jinn (the demons, that is; the Qur’an teaches that some of the Jinn are unbelievers and some are Muslims). In other words, the kafir Jinn are working to break down the Great Wall from their side as well. When the Wall finally crashes, our world will end.[34]

SBS: As you are a veteran of the counter-culture movement, I am wondering if you would not mind speaking about your own personal experiences with psychedelics. In doing so could you please describe the psychological and the environmental factors known in psychedelic circles as “set and setting”, including what substance and quantity you ingested during any “positive” psychedelic experiences?

CU: My “set” was always: “I seek the Clear Light; I wish to open to higher consciousness; I hope to see God”. And my setting was almost invariably a place of beauty in the natural world. Leaving aside my many more or less positive mescaline and peyote trips (though one was quite painful and rigorous—deliberately so), my two rather unpleasant experiences with psilocybin mushrooms, and my one extremely powerful trip on morning glory seeds (whose active ingredient is “organic acid”, lysergic acid amide), the settings for my three LSD trip were 1) the valley below Alpine Dam on Mt. Tamalpias, Marin County, California; 2) the Rocky Mountains of British Columbia; 3) Joshua Tree National Monument in the deserts of Southern California. As for dosage, we who bought our acid “on the street” never really knew. Various microgram numbers were given or not given by our sources; many times we were just told “this is one hit” or “5 hits”, or someone who had already ingested some of the batch in question might suggest how much we should take. The first trip came out of a blue pill, the second out of a “windowpane” and the third out of a “blotter”. A windowpane was a tiny square of clear solid gelatin of the kind used for gelatin capsules; a blotter was a square of blotter-paper. Acid was sold in the latter two forms to demonstrate that it was most likely not adulterated, since you never knew what might be in a pill or capsule besides acid, or instead of acid.

SBS: Could you please describe in detail what transpired both inwardly and outwardly during this psychedelic session?

CU: Session One: essentially a “Second Bardo” trip, “the Bardo of Experiencing Reality” (or rather, as I would now say, “existence”) according to the system developed by Timothy Leary and based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead:[35] Time slowed down immensely and became “specialized”; the landscape was transfigured into a scene of unearthly earthly beauty; matter was transformed into, or clearly recognized as, a coagulation of energy—if I squeezed a stone it would vibrate and sizzle in my hand; the Celestial Light of Heaven almost came down, or started to; wings almost sprouted on my shoulders; I looked at an acorn cap and thought I was seeing a newly-hatched baby snake still coiled up as he had been in his shell (later in Vancouver, British Columbia, after reading a poem based on that experience at a café, I was told by another of the performers, a traditional London “busker”, that in that vision I had come upon a piece of Druid lore), etc. At one point a short, gnarled figure appeared whom I thought of as a “pirate”, he was disgruntled, irritated, as if to say “Hey you kids! Get off my property!” (I was tripping with a friend). Later I realized that he was in fact a gnome, a spirit of the Earth element in the system of Paracelsus; I further realized that by dropping acid in that forested canyon by that clear stream of water we had done the equivalent of breaking into his house uninvited or even walking through his wall; no wonder he was angry! Here’s the poem I wrote about that trip:

The Lightning’s Kiss

I

the storm is directly above us:
boiling fog,
surf crashing on the shoreline
of the hills—
mingling elements
flashing white, blue
moil in a turbulence—
luminous webs
vapours streaming
and blotting the Sun
and revealing him again
in his course—

our external destinies
rush to crazy oblivion
in the sky above—

here below,
the Quiet:

grey, green, dark & almost white,
the treetrunks boil up to Heaven!
silver-muscled branches
light up like bleeding arteries;
slender arms and sinews of branches,
sparkling hieroglyphs of leaves,
architectural script of rock,
the gnarled old face of the vegetable Druid
frowning thunderous from the roots,
his countenance beating
like a human heart—

and the creek is filled
with men’s voices
the single-minded, the inexorable
in one motion through time—
rare fluencies of speech,
sparkling emerald syntax
in the masculine sunlight,
illuminating the brilliance
of contention and declamation—

sounds of crickets, secrets,
goblets of Egyptian sound,
moving downstream—

the linked syllables of Karma
talking forever
in the direction of the
listening Sea—

and behind me, over my shoulder
the Tyger growls—
chewing the bones of his prey to splinters
in a keening, crying Wind.

II

and the wind in the leaves
is the voices of women
wailing in love
or lamentation—
coiling whispers around the treetrunks—
drawing long shimmering cadences
through the five-fingered strings of branches,
and making an anguish of visible pleasure
that moves through the forest
like the cries of living violins
as the bow draws over the nipples
releasing a wind of singing
that shivers in the branches
and through the branches of my flesh
like ripples through a
shaft of smoke.

(exotic poisons:
vitalities coursing
through rock & wood:
the war outside
by bomb, or dollar,
is ground through
wheels of Nature –
or Nature herself,
moaning
like this,
makes war outside
this canyon:
(the question
should be: not
Which is Origin, Man
or what he sees,
but:
Where can I work—
in these cool and
harpstringed elements,
or in the gut
of the machine
made of human hands
these elements see
in their Mirror?

If anyone thinks it is a “good” poem, this simply demonstrates the great gulf that exists between the aesthetic dimension and the spiritual dimension, though spiritual truth can certainly express itself by way of aesthetic beauty. The Qur’an calls the Jinn-inspired poets of pre-Islamic Arabia those who say that which they do not, and Rumi, the greatest poet of Islam, had the following to say about his art:

My disposition is such that I don’t want anyone to suffer on my account….I am loved by those who come to see me, and so I compose poetry to entertain them lest they grow weary. Otherwise, why on earth would I be spouting poetry? I am vexed by poetry. I don’t think there is anything worse. It is like having to put one’s hands into tripe to wash it for one’s guests because they have an appetite for it. That is why I must do it.[36]

Session Two: a First Bardo trip, the Bardo of “the Clear Light of the Void”, the “set” for which I had posited by reading the Diamond Sutra and the Heart Sutra right before ingestion: No hallucinations, no visual or auditory distortions, simply the obvious fact that experience could go along quite happily with no experiencer there at all; as the Beatles put it, “Life goes on within you and without you.” And since “I” was empty of self-nature, essentially snuffed out, the world I saw—immense, beautiful, snow-capped mountains, viewed in pristine clarity—was equally empty. Nothing really there. This self-and-world annihilation only persisted, however, when I was alone; as soon as I approached another human being—a girl in this case—“I” began to come back into existence; from this I learned that relatedness, or polarity, is the principle of all manifestation—a truth that the Buddhists call “Indra’s Net”. As the Heart Sutra puts it: “Form is emptiness; emptiness is form”. Precisely.

Session Three: probably a Third Bardo trip, “the Bardo of Seeking Rebirth”, a condition in which ego-transcendence is blocked, and consequently the tripper (or the consciousness-principle after physical death) is experiencing the pain and suffering of chaos, leading him to attempt to escape from this chaos into some kind of stable form that isn’t exploding in a million directions all the time. My “set” here may not have been as pure as that of Session Two, since I had already begun to read the books of “sorcerer” Carlos Castaneda [1925-1998][37], whom I met on one occasion. I had a brief experience of the higher reaches of the Second Bardo when the world appeared as a “tree” whose fruit was a constellation of Buddha or Bodhisattva images as in a Tibetan thanka (sacred painting), but it didn’t last; for the rest of the time I was just waiting to come down. When I closed my eyes the cactuses and thorny chaparral bushes of the desert around me were reproduced as writhing, thorn-studded whips or cables, like the ocotillo plant. I stared at my Toyota Land Cruiser and just couldn’t make out what it was: it looked like an ever-shifting 17-dimensional arrangement of wheels, pulleys and intersecting planes, like an M. C. Escher print. In this trip, like my two psilocybin trips, I was mostly just “doing time”.

SBS: From your own point of view why would you consider these psychedelic experiences—“good trips” or “bad trips”—and what criteria could be used to asses this?

CU: To answer this question I need to define what “good trip” and “bad trip” usually meant to the hippies: a good trip was one that felt good, a bad trip, one that felt bad. Moral or intellectual or spiritual criteria were rarely applied; the most common standard of judgment was hedonistic—though some trippers were capable of realizing that the pain of certain psychedelic experiences might teach one something or work as a psychic catharsis. From that point of view, my first trip was mostly “good”, my second trip “good”, and my third trip mostly “bad”—though nowhere near as bad as a real bad trip, filled with paranoia and panic.

From the standpoint of spiritual insight, the second session was the only real “trip”—and it was the only one in which I wasn’t going anywhere. It showed me the possibility and reality of ego-transcendence (though not how to attain it on any stable basis), and taught me, as I said above, that existence is fundamentally relational. The first session showed me the existence of another “world”, specifically the “etheric plane”, the layer of the intermediate or psychic plane where the elementals reside; that started me on a long series of excursions into the elf-world, probably because, without my knowing it, LSD had permanently breached the natural energy-barrier or “etheric wall” between my material and subtle (not Spiritual) levels of consciousness—the microcosmic analogue of the “Great Wall” René Guénon speaks of in The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times [1953]. This left me with a lifelong over-sensitivity to psychic forces that has produced many experiences of great pain over the years, made it hard for me to meditate (too much psychic “static”), and caused me to be vulnerable to demonic attack. If any good came of this condition it was limited to an ability to “listen in”, as it were, to the councils of the demons, and find out something about what they are up to on a collective level, so that I can avoid certain of their influences and warn others.

The third session was just sad; all I learned from that one was, “no more LSD”.

SBS: Do you have any further reflections on these experiences in light of your present-day outlook on psychedelics? Did your use of psychedelics prompt you to enter a more sustaining spiritual path? And do you still use psychedelics in conjunction with your spiritual practice?

CU: Yes: the conclusion that, from the spiritual perspective, no trip is good—especially if one is actually able to access higher consciousness or “see God” by means of it (assuming, of course, that these experiences are not delusions, or so mixed with delusionary elements that the way to the valid experiences and insights they counterfeit is not in fact blocked forever). If you drop acid, see horrible hallucinations and experience excruciating feelings of loneliness, degradation and fear, you may actually be luckier than if you experience “ecstasy” and “profound insight” and “consciousness of God”, if not (momentary) “liberation from the wheel of becoming”. If you break your way into the Inner Chamber on your own initiative, you have committed sacrilege—how can you ever become obedient to and annihilated in God’s will if you think you have the right to break into His house any time the fancy suits you? I am not saying that the higher consciousness that can on certain occasions be experienced through psychedelics may not sometimes have a positive effect on one’s life and outlook—but at what cost?

Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh [1926-2008], my first Sufi shaykh, strictly prohibited the use of all drugs, including psychedelics. My 20 years under his guidance were mostly spent laboriously recollecting and healing the psyche I had blown to the four winds through the use of psyche- delics, and also undoubtedly through the abuse of kundalini-yoga practiced without benefit of a teacher and a tradition. If I had never entered the Sufi path, however, I might never have seen just how damaged I was; I might have tripped on from one psychic state to another and never realized that I was headed for destruction, if not in this world then certainly in the next. In the words of the Noble Qur’an, God guides aright whom He will and leads astray whom He will….God is the best of plotters. And as for whether or not psychedelics in some way prompted me to enter the Sufi path, that is hard to answer. I entered that path because God called me. Whether He called me through certain valid insights or salutary warnings provided by psychedelics is by and large irrelevant. If you find God after being disappointed in love or wounded in war, does this mean you can recommend such experiences to other people as a way of finding God? All these trappings of personal destiny are at best irrelevant, and at worst a case of idolatry. If you worship the occasion you will never find the Essence; if you worship the means you will never reach the End. It may be that psychedelics were part of the occasion for my entry into the Spiritual path, but the occasion is not the cause. And I haven’t used any psychedelic substance, including marijuana, for over 20 years.

SBS: In response to your comments about the implicit dangers of having a “good” trip versus a “bad” trip due to the nature of the experience, could not such an experience be a “door opener” to an authentic spiritual path, if not grasped on to—“When you get the message, hang up the phone.”?[38] Especially in light of the many seekers that have had psychedelic experiences and have nonetheless formally affiliated themselves within a revealed tradition. Most notably Huston Smith (b. 1919) comes to mind, would you mind elaborating?

CU: It could be; clearly it has been for some people. But its function as a door-opener is often overshadowed by the fact that psychedelic experience is so intense that all later spiritual experience and practice tend to pale by comparison; you keep judging them, consciously or unconsciously, as to whether they “measure up” to LSD. Huston Smith once complained to me that even after years of spiritual practice in a variety of traditions, notably Sufism, he was never able to “regain” the level of opening and insight provided by acid. That’s the problem in a nutshell: to attempt to bring back the former glory of one’s psychedelic days is to reject, often in total unconsciousness, what God is offering you now. God’s will for you is always in the present, whereas, in the words of William Blake [1757-1827], “Memory is Eternal Death”. In the Sufi view, the Spiritual Path is not the quest for higher consciousness but the purification of the soul from anything that would block the influx of higher consciousness. In light of this conception, experiences of rigor and abasement and contraction (qabd) are as important as experiences of spiritual expansion (bast); Ibn Ata’allah [d. 1309] even says that there is much more danger of violating spiritual courtesy (adab) with God in a state of bast than in a state of qabd—and to beg or demand that God bring back a past state as you remember it is certainly the height of discourtesy, besides being impossible. Furthermore, after LSD, it is very hard to overcome the illusion that God is an experience.

SBS: The socio-historical context in which psychedelics first emerged onto the public domain is very interesting and there are probably many who even partook in the psychedelic experience without knowing the nefarious context in which their mass dissemination to the American public took place. Many individuals might be alarmed to know that the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH) reported in 2007 that approximately 34.2 million Americans aged 12 and older (or 13.8% of the population) reported trying hallucinogens at least one time and some might argue that these numbers are quite low and underestimate the mass and widespread use.

CU: And we also need, not just to remember, but to grasp the full import of, the fact that LSD was first distributed in the United States by the CIA, partly in the context of the infamous MK-ULTRA mind-control program, which included experiments practiced upon unsuspecting American citizens that were worthy to stand beside those conducted in the Nazi death-camps (see the research of David McGowan, Henry Makow and Peter Levenda).[39] Timothy Leary was assigned to feed acid to the intelligentsia, Ken Kesey [1935-2001] to everybody else; the idea was to compare how it acted under “controlled conditions” with its effects in a totally free-wheeling, “party” atmosphere. And the hippies actually knew about this! They said, “SURE we were a CIA experiment, man—an experiment that GOT OUT OF CONTROL!”[40] But the fact is that LSD initiated a sort of “bardo” or revelatory decay of American culture; all the latent tendencies, good and bad, the dominant belief-systems, conscious or otherwise, were called up in a very short time, laid out for all to see—and much of the social and cultural potential of America and the Western World rapidly exhausted in the process. The family was largely destroyed (not by LSD alone of course); Christian morality (including the concept of human dignity) was undermined; political responsibility was seriously eroded. And the social engineers simply sat back and took notes. They noted the main trends, the major “cultural archetypes” operating in the “collective unconscious” of society, and devised various ways to appropriate, per vert and control every one of them; in so doing they initiated the world we live in today.

The hippies naively equated social control with a simplistic authoritarian repression; they rarely awoke to the fact that REAL control is based on co-optation, on the covert implantation of engineered beliefs and attitudes in the mass mind. The powers that be do not want heroes who courageously oppose them and die as martyrs; they would much rather find, or create, dupes who will obey their every command in the firm belief that they are following their own desires, their own creative expressions and “spiritual” intuitions, all in perfect freedom.

One other deleterious effect of psychedelics, which has clearly operated on the mass level (though not in every individual case), is that they broke down people’s protection against the surrounding psychic environment; first you “open up” too much, and then compensate by “closing down” so as to protect yourself from the painful influences emanating from your surroundings, including other people. Excess empathy ends in paranoia; the artificial breaking down of what psychologist Wilhelm Reich [1897-1957] called “character armor” often results in a worse case of such armor later on. (Perennialist Titus Burckhardt [1908-1984], in his book Alchemy: Science of the Cosmos, Science of the Soul [1986], speaks of the close relationship between psycho-physical dissolution and psycho-physical petrification.) As Jesus put it, the demon we have exorcized wanders in waterless places until, returning to the soul from which he has been expelled and finding it swept and adorned, he brings with him seven demons more evil than himself. We probably could never have produced a society where millions spend hours a day alone before computer screens—while imagining that, via Twitter or whatever, they actually have thousands of “friends”!—if LSD hadn’t softened us up first; the isolation and excess introversion produced in part by psychedelics has effectively broken down the kind of social solidarity we need if we are to maintain our political freedoms and human rights; we are all too happy in our cubicles, or at least afraid to leave them. A friend of mine once said to me, back in the 60’s: “Acid would be great if you could have all that incredible imagery without those feelings”. Bill Gates must have heard his plea; cyberspace reproduces in many ways the hallucinatory content of psychedelics without the accompanying insights.

And now government-sponsored psychedelic research is making a comeback. Anyone tempted to become involved with it should first do some in-depth research on exactly which individuals and institutions are sponsoring, publicizing and funding such a move, as well as their background and connections (what is the Internet for, after all?). Looking back over the cultural and spiritual “scorched earth” of the psychedelic revolution in the years since the 60’s, I shudder to think what they may have in store for us now. We should never forget that the CIA likely sponsored the mass dissemination of LSD as part of their MK-ULTRA mind control program. According to Peter Levenda, William Mellon Hitchcock, who was associated with CIA front organizations Castle Bank and Trust and Resorts International, as well as being Timothy Leary’s landlord for his “psychedelic manor house” at Millbrook, paid a chemist by the name of Nicholas Sand [b. 1941] to produce millions of doses of acid.[41] Another figure from the psychedelic underground that should be mentioned along with Sand, is his collaborator chemist Robert “Tim” Scully [b. 1944], together they produced enormous quantities of LSD known in these circles as “Orange Sunshine.”

SBS: While you have elaborated on the psychic and spiritual dangers of using psyche- delics,[42] there are many individuals and researchers that affirm the healing potential of such substances. After a three decade hiatus there is now renewed interest in psychedelic research and they are increasingly being studied as possible adjuncts to psychotherapy for various psycho-physical ailments: treatment-resistant anxiety disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), pain associated with terminal and end-stage cancer, cluster headaches, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), alcohol[43], cocaine and heroin dependency to name a few.[44] Could you please comment on this matter?

CU: The use of toxic pharmaceuticals and traumatic interventions is common and sometimes necessary in the practice of medicine, but these things have little or nothing to do with the Spiritual Path per se. Psychedelics—whose toxicity is by and large psychic, not physical—may have a therapeutic effect in cases of alcoholism, heroin addiction etc., but this doesn’t mean that they create no problems of their own; it’s a question of the lesser of two evils. And what may be a lesser evil in psychophysical terms may or may not be a lesser one in Spiritual terms. Our post-Christian secular society obviously does not have the final end and eternal good of the human soul on its radar screen, nor does it hold a very clear idea of human dignity or the intrinsic value of the person; abortion, for example, is not even seen by many people as the taking of human life. Our society has no concept of suffering as spiritual purgation (by which I certainly don’t mean to imply that all suffering is purifying simply because it hurts); its highest good seems to be production, consequently it tends to define healing in terms of making us “productive members of society”. There are even muted but increasingly audible suggestions that non-productive citizens ought to be euthanized; Bill Gates recently stated that a certain degree of medical care ought to be denied the elderly and diverted to the maintenance of productive workers. And now, under the “war on terror”, torture has become acceptable to us for the first time since the passage of the Bill of Rights. How can a society capable of such barbaric actions and sentiments be relied upon to accurately evaluate the effects of psychedelic drugs in either moral or spiritual terms?

 

Afterword

[Charles Upton:]

Some time after granting this interview, I talked with a physician acquaintance of mine who had participated in the second round of psilocybin experiments within academia in the 1990’s; I hadn’t realized they had started up again that early. He investigated the source of the funding for the experiment he’d been part of at the University of New Mexico, and discovered that the money for the DMT research that led up to the experiments he had been involved in had been provided by the Scottish Rite Foundation for Schizophrenia Research—the Freemasons![45] In view of the fact that many traditional Catholics see the Second Vatican Council as a kind of Masonic coup within the Catholic Church, the apparent “coincidence” that psychedelic drugs became available to the masses at exactly the same time that traditional Roman Catholicism was being destroyed may in fact be much more than that; as René Guénon pointed out, though cyclical conditions may make the growth of the Counter-Initiation possible, the concrete manifestations of this counterfeit, Luciferian spirituality can only be brought about by actual human groups. Dr. Rama P. Coomaraswamy [1929-2006] in his essay “The Problem of Obedience”, unpublished in hardcopy but available on the web, recounts the following:

….a leading Freemason, Yves Marsoudon (State Master, Supreme Council of France, Scottish Rite) tells us: “The sense of universalism that is rampant in Rome these days is very close to our purpose of existence….With all our hearts we support the ‘Revolution of John XXIII’….” Not satisfied with this, Yves Marsoudon dedicated his book Ecumenism as Seen by a Traditionalist Freemason to the Pope in the following words: “To the Memory of Angelo Roncalli, Priest, Archbishop of Messembria, Apostolic Nuncio in Paris, Cardinal of the Roman Church, Patriarch of Venice, POPE under the name of John XXIII, WHO HAS DEIGNED TO GIVE US HIS BENEDICTION, HIS UNDERSTANDING AND HIS PROTECTION.”[46]

And then, shortly after that conversation, I had a dream—a dream filled with flaming apocalyptic imagery which represented the glory of God. When I woke up, I realized that I was in fact being purified of the psychic residues of LSD, which I last ingested over 35 years ago. In light of this dream I began to understand in a much different light the tendency of all other spiritual states or practices to pale in comparison with the LSD experience. We may sincerely say, and believe, something on the order of: “I took LSD several times; later I practiced a Sufi dhikr for several years. Looking back on these experiences, I can now truthfully report that the LSD provided a more intense spiritual state and a greater depth of insight than did the dhikr.” In making this judgment we assume of course that we are objectively comparing two experiences from a standpoint of detachment, that the scales we are using to weigh these experiences against each other are fundamentally sound. What almost never occurs to us is that LSD may have imprinted or conditioned a deeply-buried layer of our psyche such that all subsequent experiences of any psychic or spiritual depth are filtered through this conditioning, resulting in a biased evaluation. If it is possible to have LSD “flashbacks” years after the original experience, who is to say that a subtle “hangover”, physically undetectable, or perhaps indicated by a potentially measurable “re-programming” of the brain due to the extreme intensity of psychedelic experience, may also remain in the deep psyche?

The fact that Richard Alpert, aka Ram Dass [b. 1931], was told by his Hindu yoga instructors, “You have a kundalini-blockage in your vishuddha-chakra [throat center] due to your past use of psychedelics”, supports this hypothesis. It’s as if LSD can act to breach the natural barrier between Nous/Intellectus, associated with the ajña-chakra or “third eye”, and dianoia/ratio, associated with the vishuddha-chakra, thus flooding the lower rational mind with material from the higher Intellectual mind; the lower mind becomes overloaded with this higher material, now expressed on a lower level, and ends by counterfeiting the quality of the Nous/Intellectus and thus blocking access to it. Consequently, if spiritual methods practiced and spiritual states experienced after LSD seem in some sense to lie in the shadow of acid, this may simply mean that acid is still there, casting that shadow. The import of my dream was that the glory of God had arrived in order to burn out the residual psychic glamour left behind by psychedelics, and purify my soul of their ongoing influence; I attribute this event to the spiritual effect of my entry into my second Sufi order. It may in fact be the case that the use of LSD has the power to subtly damage the highest reflections of Nous/Intellectus, the “eye of the heart” [‘ayn al-qalb], in the individual psyche, just as the physical eye may be damaged by staring into the sun; the reason we almost never become aware of this damage is that it lies at a psycho-spiritual depth so great that we are rarely able to consciously return to it without once more ingesting LSD, thus compounding the damage. The use of powerful psychedelics may also produce in us a taste, or need, for deep spiritual experiences that we otherwise would never have sought out, and that may not really be proper to us, while at the same time preventing such experiences from translating us to the final station, where (in Sufi terminology) fana—spiritual annihilation—gives way to baqa—subsistence in God. Like Moses, we may be left standing on the mountain, looking down to where the Children of Israel are crossing over into the Promised Land, but eternally denied entrance into that land ourselves as punishment for the sin, while searching for water, of striking the rock twice instead of only once as our Lord commanded—in terms of spiritual realization, the sin of trying to force the hand of God. Furthermore, those who are brought so near to the mysterium tremendum while being denied the final consummation may be subject to Luciferian temptations that the rest of us will probably never encounter, chief among them being the temptation to embrace a Luciferian consummation in a counterfeit Absolute designed in the infernal regions. Anyone who succumbs to such a temptation (which will most likely be presented to him or her in the deep unconscious regions of the soul), or is even confronted with it—assuming that the victim is not able to allow God to heal the psycho-spiritual damage that makes him or her susceptible to it—may effectively be denied Union with Absolute Reality for the remainder of this life, and possibly also the next.

 

 

[1] For more biographical information on Mr. Charles Upton see: http://www.seriousseekers.com.

[2] British psychiatrist Humphry Fortescue Osmond (1917-2004) coined the term “psychedelic” or “mind-manifesting” via his correspondence with Aldous Huxley. In responding to a letter that Dr. Osmond received from Huxley written on 30 March, 1956 he wrote in poetic reflection: “To fathom Hell or soar angelic, / Just take a pinch of psychedelic”, thus giving birth to the term “psychedelic”, yet it was not known to the public at large or the scientific community until 1957 [Michael Horowitz and Cynthia Palmer (eds.), Moksha: Aldous Huxley’s Classic Writings on Psychedelics and the Visionary Experience (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1999), p. 107]; see also Humphry Osmond, “A Review of the Clinical Effects of Psychotomimetic Agents”, Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, Vol. 66, No. 3 (1957), pp. 418–434. It is also relevant to point out that it was Dr. Osmond who in May of 1953 first introduced Huxley to a synthesized form of mescaline, the psychoactive compound in peyote (among other psychedelic cacti) which in turn produced his work The Doors of Perception in 1954, which according to some launched the psychedelic revolution.

[3] “‘Entheogen’ means simply ‘God generated within you!’” [Robert Forte, “A Conversation with R. Gordon Wasson” in Entheogens and the Future of Religion, ed. Robert Forte (San Francisco, CA: Council on Spiritual Practices, 1997), p. 69]; see also Carl A.P. Ruck, Jeremy Bigwood, Danny Staples, Jonathan Ott and R. Gordon Wasson, “Entheogens” in The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries, Twentieth Anniversary Edition, eds. R. Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann and Carl A.P. Ruck (Los Angeles, CA: Hermes Press, 1998), pp. 137-139.

[4] For an interesting discussion on the distinctions between the subtle and nondual states of consciousness see the following two part video with Ken Wilber (b. 1949), a pioneer within transpersonal psychology, speaking about the uses of Ayahuasca or Yajé and psychedelics in general highlighting the obstacles and dangers of their use to authentic spiritual growth: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HPQgKbxIjk. After viewing the two video clips by Wilber, Charles Upon stated the following: “People do take psychedelics hoping for spiritual transformation, and a simple ‘just say no to drugs’ will not influence many of them; in view of this, Wilber did a good job of putting psychedelics in an insightful context when he said that their best use is to teach you that the most impressive visionary states and realized insights are not Absolute Reality since they all pass away; only the Atman, the Witness that witnesses them, is Absolute. This is something like the Sufi doctrine that spiritual states happen in relation to specific ego-attachments in order to burn out those attachments, after which the states in question do not return; the realized Sufi is beyond states. One difference between states based on drugs and states sent by God, however, is that drug-induced states can be psychologically habit-forming—largely because it is possible to pop the ‘same’ pill again and again, imagining you can repeat an earlier state—but it is not possible to induce God to send the same state again, seeing that Every day doth some new work employ Him (Qur’an 55:29). A massive expansion of psychic experience is in no way an unmitigated good, since it can either wear away one’s attachment to experience in favor of the Witness or veil the Witness by inflaming one’s desire for more and more experience.” With this said, Wilber should not be considered a “friend” of the perennial philosophy or the spiritual traditions themselves, nor a representative of the traditionalist or perennialist school for he has methodically undermined and attacked the integral metaphysics of the perennial philosophy, first as an insider by aligning himself with this universal orientation and then by attempting to usurp the traditions within the fold of his ever inclusive evolutionary and syncretic AQAL Model—all quadrants, all levels, all lines, all states and all types. If Wilber has his way in superimposing his hegemonic integralism upon the spiritual traditions of the world, Hinduism will no longer be Hinduism but Integral Hinduism, Buddhism will no longer be Buddhism but Integral Buddhism, Christianity will no longer be Christianity but Integral Christianity, Islam will no longer be Islam but Integral Islam and so on—which is nothing less than the insurgence of Wilberianism on a totalitarian scale. Will an integral New Age spiritualty also be put on the table, as some have suggested, by the absurd notion of integral theosophy which would wed Helena Petrovna Blavatsky (1831-1891) and Ken Wilber? This could not be anything other than pseudo-spirituality at its height. Despite the fact that Carl Gustav Jung (1875-1961) appeared to be a “friend” of spirituality, he in reality and to the surprise of many psychologized these traditions—Wilber in a similar fashion not only supersedes but champions his forerunner—going above and beyond by Absolutizing his integralism. The fact that Wilber and his comrades of the Integral Institute cannot perceive the integral nature of each sapiential tradition in divinis calls into question their very understanding of the world’s spiritualities, yet from another perspective this speaks to the very postmodern narcissism that they have painstakingly discussed ad nauseum, a symptom that he and many of his contemporaries, strangely enough given the circumstances, have not been able to evade. That the postmodern mentality has become emaciated and is unable to perceive the inner dimension or esoterism of the “transcendent unity of religions” in no way signifies that these divinely revealed traditions need to be updated to appeal to this atrophied outlook; to do so would be a reductio ad absurdum. See José Segura, “On Ken Wilber’s Integration of Science and Religion”, Sacred Web: A Journal of Tradition and Modernity, Vol. 5 (Summer 2005), pp. 71-83; Samuel Bendeck Sotillos, “Book Review: Frithjof Schuon and the Perennial Philosophy”, International Journal of Transpersonal Studies, Vol. 29, No. 1 (2010), pp. 138-142; Samuel Bendeck Sotillos, “Book Review: The Return of the Perennial Philosophy”, Sacred Web: A Journal of Tradition and Modernity, Vol. 25 (Summer 2010), pp. 175-184.

In looking at the “four forces” of modern psychology, some might ask where does Ken Wilber’s “integral psychology”, which some are calling a “fifth force”, fit into this critique? In response, we would like to repeat that while Wilber at one time strongly identified with the integral metaphysics of the perennial philosophy he has incrementally distanced himself from this perspective and, as we have seen, has become fundamentally hostile to the perennial philosophy and even attempts to absorb it within the fold of his “integralism”. While we cannot expand here upon Ken Wilber’s relationship with the traditionalists or the perennial philosophy, we need to emphasize that when we refer to “integral psychology” it is inextricably linked to the perennial philosophy and has nothing to do with Wilber’s usage of the term. Furthermore, while some might attribute Wilber’s “Integral Movement” to Jean Gebser (1905-1973) or Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), who have both heavily influenced Wilber’s work, it needs to be said that both  René  Guénon and  Frithjof Schuon  used the epithet “integral” throughout  their  work long before

Wilber made it his singular trademark. In reviewing the opus of Guénon and Schuon, we find references to integral metaphysics, integral anthropology, integral knowledge, integral development, integral realization, integral individuality and even integral spirituality which are not based on individualistic speculation but on universal principles that are common to all sapiential traditions, according to the principle known as the “transcendent unity of religions”. This is relevant when recalling the fundamental influence that the traditionalists, especially Schuon, have had upon Wilber’s decisive work, The Spectrum of Consciousness (1977).  While we do not wish to claim a monopoly on the usage of “integral”, we do need to mention these other potential influences upon Wilber’s work, especially since the perennial philosophy once permeated his theoretical vision. Although Wilber’s so-called integral

psychology ambitiously attempts to synthesize the best of the premodern, modern and postmodern conceptions, it remains true to none of them; it is not really “integral” in the traditional or perennialist sense but is merely a case of Wilber cloaking himself in the garb of the saints and sages of all times and places while attempting to give them a facelift. Let us conclude by affirming that nothing could be more precarious than to assume that the spiritual tradi- tions of the world need to be updated or that they need Wilber to do so.

[5] Traditionalist or perennialist author Whitall N. Perry (1920-2005) illustrates why psychic phenomenon are so seductive and difficult to discern for most seekers: “The confusion is between the psychic and spiritual planes of reality, where the unfamiliar, the strange, and the bizarre are mistaken for the transcendent, simply by the fact that they lie outside the ordinary modes of consciousness.” [Whitall N. Perry, “Drug-Induced Mysticism: The Mescalin Hypothesis” in Challenges to a Secular Society (Oakton, VA: The Foundation for Traditional Studies, 1996), p. 10]. Readers will notice that the tittle of this interview references Perry’s pioneering article that was first published nearly sixty years ago and yet its thesis still holds strong and debunks many predominant errors. It is for this reason that we have chosen to mention it and we are grateful to the author for its appearance.

[6] Huston Smith, “Encountering God” in The Way Things Are: Conversations with Huston Smith on the Spiritual Life, ed. Phil Cousineau (Los Angeles, CA: University of California Press, 2003), p. 97; “Counterfeit spirituality, instead, will place emphasis on impressionistic experience, on the subjective pole of mystical endeavor, practically to the near-total or even total exclusion of the objective pole, and derives its motive force—and abusively personal justification—in heightened emotionalism or vagrant intuitionalism, or even in altered states of consciousness.” [Mark Perry, “The Forbidden Door” in Every Branch in Me: Essays on the Meaning of Man, ed. Barry McDonald (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2002), p. 239]; see also René Guénon, “The Great Parody: or Spirituality Inverted” in The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, trans. Lord Northbourne (Ghent, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2001), pp. 267-274.

[7] We recall the unequivocal words of Frithjof Schuon: “there is no possible spiritual way outside the great orthodox traditional ways. A meditation or concentration practiced at random and outside of tradition will be inoperative, and even dangerous in more than one respect; the illusion of progress in the absence of real criteria is certainly not the least of these dangers.” [Quoted in Whitall N. Perry, “Drug-Induced Mysticism: The Mescalin Hypothesis” in Challenges to a Secular Society (Oakton, VA: The Foundation for Traditional Studies, 1996), pp. 15-16]; “To be precise: there is no spiritual path outside the following traditions or religions: Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and Taoism; but Hinduism is closed for those who have not been born into a Hindu caste, and Taoism is inaccessible” [Titus Burckhardt, “A Letter on Spiritual Method” in Mirror of the Intellect: Essays on Traditional Science and Sacred Art, trans. and ed. William Stoddart (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1987), p. 251]

[8] See Lee Penn, False Dawn: The United Religions Initiative, Globalism, and the Quest for a One-World Religion (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2004)

[9] “In 1965 a research team from Germany published a paper in the flagship British science journal Nature announcing that they had isolated DMT from human blood. In 1972 Nobel-prize winning scientist Julius Axelrod of the U.S. National Institutes of Health reported finding it in human brain tissue. Additional research showed that DMT could also be found in the human urine and the cerebrospinal fluid bathing the brain. It was not long before scientists discovered the pathways, similar to those in lower animals, by which the human body made DMT. DMT thus became the first endogenous human psychedelic.” [Rick Strassman, “What DMT Is” in DMT: The Spirit Molecule (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2001), p. 48]; See also James Oroc, “5-MeO-DMT: Science, Discovery, and the History of Human Use” in Tryptamine Palace: 5-MeO-DMT and the Sonoran Desert Toad (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2009), pp. 19-38.

[10] The following provides a Traditionalist perspective regarding this point, “If drugs could change and transform consciousness, it is certain that this knowledge would have been incorporated into spiritual teachings from time immemorial. On the other hand, intoxicants and drugs have served universally as supports adjacent to ritual practices, even where the use is purely symbolic” [Whitall N. Perry, “Drug-Induced Mysticism: The Mescalin Hypothesis” in Challenges to a Secular Society (Oakton, VA: The Foundation for Traditional Studies, 1996), p. 15]

[11] Barbara G. Myerhoff, Peyote Hunt: The Sacred Journey of the Huichol Indians (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1983); Antonin Artaud, The Peyote Dance, trans. Helen Weaver (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1976); Edward F. Anderson, Peyote: The Divine Cactus (Tucson, AZ: The University of Arizona Press, 1994)

[12] Eduardo Calderón, Richard Cowan, Douglas Sharon and F. Kaye Sharon, Eduardo el Curandero: The Words of a Peruvian Healer (Richmond, CA: North Atlantic Books, 1982)

[13] “[Question:] So your view is that hallucinogens were involved in the origin of some religious traditions but not necessarily all.” “[Peter T. Furst:] No, I think that’s also going too far. The use of the so-called ‘hallucinogens’ is a function of religion, not its origin.” [Peter T. Furst, “Ancient Altered States” in Roger Walsh and Charles S. Grob (eds.) Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2005), p. 156]; see also Peter T. Furst (ed.), Flesh of the Gods: The Ritual Use of Hallucinogens (New York: Praeger Publishers, 1974); Peter T. Furst, Hallucinogens and Culture (San Francisco, CA: Chandler & Sharp Publishers, 1979); R. Gordon Wasson, Stella Kramrisch, Jonathan Ott and Carl A.P. Ruck, Persephone’s Quest: Entheogens and the Origins of Religion (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1986); Richard Evans Schultes and Albert Hofmann, Plants of the Gods: Their Sacred, Healing and Hallucinogenic Powers (Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press, 1992); Jonathan Ott, Pharmacotheon: Entheogenic Drugs, Their Plant Sources and History (Kennewick, WA: Natural Products, 1993); Peter Stafford, Psychedelics Encyclopedia, Third Expanded Edition (Berkeley, CA: Ronin Publishing, 1992); Marlene Dobkin de Rios, Hallucinogens: Cross-Cultural Perspectives (Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press, 1996); Aldous Huxley, “The History of Tension” in Michael Horowitz and Cynthia Palmer (eds.), Moksha: Aldous Huxley’s Classic Writings on Psychedelics and the Visionary Experience (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1999), pp. 117-128; Sidney Cohen, The Beyond Within: The LSD Story (New York: Atheneum, 1972); Jeremy Narby, The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge (New York: Jeremy P. Tarcher/Putnam, 1999); Andrew Weil, The Natural Mind: An Investigation of Drugs and the Higher Consciousness (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1986); Andrew Weil, The Marriage of the Sun and the Moon: A Quest for Unity in Consciousness (Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin, 1980); Daniel Pinchbeck, Breaking Open the Head: A Psychedelic Journey Into the Heart of Contemporary Shamanism (New York: Broadway Books, 2003)

[14] R. Gordon Wasson, Soma: Divine Mushroom of Immortality (New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1969). The Wasson hypothesis has been critiqued from within psychedelic circles: this from one of its most prominent voices, Terence McKenna: “The problem with this hypothesis is that A. muscaria is not a reliable visionary hallucinogen. It has proven difficult to obtain a consistently ecstatic intoxication from Amanita muscaria. Wasson was on the right track, correctly recognizing the potential of Amanita muscaria to induce religious feeling and ecstasy, but he did not take into account the imagination and linguistic stimulation imparted by the input of African psilocybin-containing mushrooms into the evolution of Old World mycolatry.” [Terence McKenna, “Mushrooms and Evolution” in The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History (New York: HarperCollins, 1991), p. 150]; See also Thomas J. Riedlinger (ed.), The Sacred Mushroom Seeker: Tributes to R. Gordon Wasson (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1990); Peter Lamborn Wilson, Ploughing the Clouds: The Search for Irish Soma (San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books, 1999)

[15] R. Gordon Wasson, Albert Hofmann and Carl A.P. Ruck (eds.), The Road to Eleusis: Unveiling the Secret of the Mysteries, Twentieth Anniversary Edition (Los Angeles, CA: Hermes Press, 1998). Some researchers assert that both Kykeon and psychedelic mushrooms (Amanita muscaria and psilocybin) were used interchangeably in the rites of the Eleusinian Mysteries, see Carl A.P. Ruck, Sacred Mushrooms of the Goddess: Secrets of Eleusis (Oakland, CA: Ronin Publishing, 2006)

[16] Dan Merkur, “Manna, the Showbread, and the Eucharist: Psychoactive Sacraments in the Bible” in Psychoactive Sacramentals: Essays on Entheogens and Religion, ed. Thomas B. Roberts (San Francisco, CA: Council on Spiritual Practices, 2001), pp. 139-144; See also Dan Merkur, The Mystery of Manna: The Psychedelic Sacrament of the Bible (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2000)

[17] Carl A.P. Ruck, Mark Alwin Hoffman and José Alfredo González Celdrán, Mushrooms, Myth and Mithras: The Drug Cult that Civilized Europe (San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books, 2011)

[18] Andrija Puharich, The Sacred Mushroom: Key to the Door of Eternity (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1959)

[19] John Marco Allegro, The Sacred Mushroom and the Cross: A Study of the Nature and Origins of Christianity Within the Fertility Cults of the Ancient Near East (New York: Bantam Books, 1971); See also Jan R. Irvin with Jack Herer, The Holy Mushroom: Evidence of Mushrooms in Judeo-Christianity (Riverside, CA: Gnostic Media, 2008); John A. Rush, Failed God: Fractured Myth in a Fragile World (Berkeley, CA: Frog Books, 2008); John A. Rush, The Mushroom in Christian Art: The Identity of Jesus in the Development of Christianity (Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic Books, 2011); Carl A.P. Ruck, Blaise Daniel Staples and Clark Heinrich, The Apples of Apollo: Pagan and Christian Mysteries of the Eucharist (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2001); Carl A.P. Ruck, Blaise Daniel Staples, José Alfredo González Celdrán and Mark Alwin Hoffman, The Hidden World: Survival of Pagan Shamanic Themes in European Fairytales (Durham, NC: Carolina Academic Press, 2007)

[20] Peter T. Furst, “Ancient Altered States” in Roger Walsh and Charles S. Grob (eds.) Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2005), p. 153. Some psychedelic researchers regard the rock art found in the mountain range of Tassili n’Ajjer southeast Algeria to be the most ancient verification of psychedelic use.

[21] René Guénon, “Some Remarks on the Doctrine of Cosmic Cycles” in Traditional Forms and Cosmic Cycles, trans. Henry D. Fohr, ed. Samuel D. Fohr (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2001), pp. 1-12; Charles Upton, Legends of the End: Prophecies of the End Times, Antichrist, Apocalypse, and Messiah from Eight Religious Traditions (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2004); Charles Upton, “Comparative Eschatology” in The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age (Ghent, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2001), pp. 424-479.

[22] Mircea Eliade, Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, trans. Willard R. Trask (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1974), p. 401. While it has been indicated that Eliade shifted his position with regards to psychedelics at the end of his life as noted by anthropologist Peter Furst: “[entheogens] forced him to change his mind on this issue, and…to accept that there was no essential difference between ecstasy achieved by plant hallucinogens and that obtained by other archaic techniques.” [Paul Devereux, The Long Trip: A Prehistory of Psychedelia (New York: Penguin Books, 1997), p. 108]. We would still argue that his initial assessment makes an important point in light of cyclical time which all traditional societies throughout the world adhered to and still to this day recognize; Karl Kerényi (1897-1973) noted Hungarian mythologist and professor of classics and the history of religion agrees with Eliade’s initial position: “For a time, an artificially induced experience of transcendence in nature was able to replace the original experience. In the history of religions, periods of ‘strong medicine’ [entheogens] usually occur when the simpler methods no longer suffice. This development may be observed among the North American Indians. Originally mere fasting sufficed to induce visions. It was only in the decadent period of [North American] Indian culture that recourse was taken to peyotl, or mescalin. Earlier it was unnecessary. This powerful drug had not always been an element in the style of [North American] Indian life, but it helped to maintain this style.” [Karl Kerényi, Dionysos: Archetypal Image of Indestructible Life, trans. Ralph Manheim (New Jersey, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), p. 26]; “In fact, there is reason to believe that much, not all, but much of this [psychedelic using] culture constitutes more of a degeneracy when compared with the possibility of what one will call golden age spirituality where a man was his own priest and carried Heaven’s Law directly and naturally within himself and had access, through his intellect, to divine and earthly wisdom. Immanence of divine wisdom is the human norm.” [Mark Perry, “The Forbidden Door” in Every Branch in Me: Essays on the Meaning of Man, ed. Barry McDonald (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2002), p. 271]; See also Peter T. Furst, “Introduction: An Overview of Shamanism” in Ancient Traditions: Shamanism in Central Asia and the Americas, eds. Gary Seaman and Jane S. Day (Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado, 1994), pp. 1-28.

[23] In this context we might also mention Prem Baba or Janderson Fernandes de Oliveira (b. 1965), a psychologist by training, also considered to be a spiritual master—combining the role of guru and shaman. Prem Baba is a disciple of Sri Hans Raj Maharajji, also known as Sri Sachcha Baba Maharajji (b. 1924) and teaches a method that he calls O Caminho do Coração or the “Path to the Heart” and refers to himself as follows: “I am an eclectic centre of universal light”. Prem Baba asserts that he is an enlightened master and began his school Sachcha Mission Ashram located in São Paulo, Brazil. What interests us is that Prem Baba was not only a former member of the syncretic church Santo Daime but also a former disciple of the controversial figure Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh or Osho (1931-1990), known as the “sex guru”, is a prototypical representative of all that constitutes as “New Age” spirituality who amassed a syncretism par excellence of everything under the sun in his spiritual toolbox. or It is seldom mentioned that Rajneesh was said to be addicted to a certain mind-altering substance known as “laughing gas” or nitrous oxide (N20). He is reported to have dictated three books—Glimpses of a Golden Childhood (1985), Notes of a Madman (1985) and Books I have Loved (1985)—under its the influence of his very own dentist’s chair; however there is one title that has not yet seen the light of day for obvious reasons: Bhagwan: the first Buddha in the Dental Chair. That Prem Baba attempts to blend the use of Ayauasca or Yajé with Hindu dharma, as well as other techniques to including a mélange of modern therapies, speaks loud and clear to the signs of the times. We cannot be too weary of such ad hoc approaches which are more and more the norm in this spiritually atrophied epoch. See also Robert Forte (ed.), Entheogens and the Future of Religion (San Francisco, CA: Council on Spiritual Practices, 1997); Allan Hunt Badiner and Alex Grey (eds.), Zig Zag Zen: Buddhism and Psychedelics (San Francisco, CA: Chronicle Books, 2002); Charles T. Tart, “Influences of Previous Psychedelic Drug Experiences on Students of Tibetan Buddhism: A Preliminary Exploration”, Journal of Transpersonal Psychology, Vol. 23, No. 2 (1991), pp. 139–173; Myron J. Stolaroff, “Are Psychedelics Useful in the Practice of Buddhism?”, Journal of Humanistic Psychology, Vol. 39, No. 1 (1999), pp. 60-80; see also the special issue “Buddhism and Psychedelics”, Tricycle: The Buddhist Review, Vol. VI, No. 1 (Fall 1996)

[24] Michael Oren Fitzgerald, “Rainbow” and “Notes” in Yellowtail, Crow Medicine Man and Sun Dance Chief: An Autobiography (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1994), pp. 56-57, 221; See also Fred W. Voget, The Shoshoni-Crow Sun Dance (Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1984), p. 169. Frank Fools Crow (1890-1989), a Lakota (Sioux) spiritual leader, yuwipi medicine man, and the nephew of Black Elk or Hehaka Sapa (1863-1950) the Lakota Sioux sage, made the following declaration regarding the use of peyote: “I have not…used peyote like they do in the Native American Church. Wakan-Tanka can take me higher than any drug ever could.” [Thomas E. Mails, “Little Hollow Bones” in Fools Crow: Wisdom and Power (San Francisco, CA: Council Oak Books, 2001), p. 40]; Lame Deer (1903-1976), Sioux medicine man underscores the incompatibility of peyote use with the sacred rites of the Oglala Sioux: “I have my hands full just clinging to our old Sioux ways—singing the ancient songs correctly, conducting a sweat-lodge ceremony as it should be, making our old beliefs as pure, as clear and true as I possibly can, making them stay alive, saving them from extinction. This is a big enough task for an old man. So I cannot be a yuwipi, a true Lakota medicine man, and take peyote at the same time.” [John (Fire) Lame Deer and Richard Erdoes, “Don’t Hurt the Trees” in Lame Deer, Seeker of Visions (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994), p. 228]

[25] In regards to Santo Daime, we need to mention another central figure, Sebastião Mota de Melo, better known as Padrinho Sebastião (1920-1990), one of the direct disciples of Mestre Irineu who founded The Eclectic Center of the Fluent Universal Light of Raimundo Irineu Serra (CEFLURIS) the two communities Colônia Cinco Mil (Colony Five Thousand) and Céu do Mapiá; the second is considered to be the church’s headquarters, yet both are located in Brazil. See Alex Polari de Alverga, Forest of Visions: Ayahuasca, Amazonian Spirituality, and the Santo Dime Tradition, trans. Rosana Workman, ed. Stephen Larsen (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 1999); Alex Polari de Alverga, The Religion of Ayahuasca: The Teachings of the Church of Santo Daime, trans. Rosana Workman, ed. Stephen Larsen (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2010).

[26] See Beatriz Caiuby Labate and Henrik Jungaberle (eds.), The Internationalization of Ayahuasca (Zürich: Lit Verlag, 2011); Beatriz Caiuby Labate, Isabel Santana de Rose and Rafael Guimaraes dos Santos, Ayahuasca Religions: A Comprehensive Bibliography & Critical Essays, trans. Matthew Meyer (Ben Lomond, CA: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, 2008)

[27] Marlene Dobkin de Rios, “Drug Tourism in the Amazon”, Anthropology of Consciousness, Vol. 5, No. 1 (1994), pp. 16-19; One can perceive the tumultuous effects of this quest for altered states of consciousness in the lamenting words of María Sabina (1894-1985), the contemporary Mexican shaman from Huautla de Jiménez of Oaxaca: “Before Wasson, I felt that the saint children elevated me. I don’t feel like that anymore. The force has diminished. If Cayetano hadn’t brought the foreigners…the saint children would have kept their power…From the moment the foreigners arrived, the saint children lost their purity. They lost their force; the foreigners spoiled them. From now on they won’t be any good. There’s no remedy for it.” [R. Gordon Wasson, “A Retrospective Essay” in Álvaro Estrada, María Sabina: Her Life and Chants, trans. Henry Munn (Santa Barbara, CA: Ross-Erikson, 1981), p. 20]; Michael Winkelman, “Drug Tourism or Spiritual Healing? Ayahuasca Seekers in Amazonia”, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol. 37, No. 2 (2005), pp. 209-218; Marlene Dobkin de Rios and Róger Rumrrill, “Drug Tourism” in A Hallucinogenic Tea, Laced with Controversy: Ayahuasca in the Amazon and the United States (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2008), pp. 69-86; Kenneth W. Tupper, “Ayahuasca Healing Beyond the Amazon: The Globalization of a Traditional Indigenous Entheogenic Practice”, Global Networks: A Journal of Transnational Affairs, Vol. 9, No. 1 (2009), pp. 117-136; Marlene Dobkin de Rios “Psychedelics and Drug Tourism” in The Psychedelic Journey of Marlene Dobkin de Rios: 45 Years with Shamans, Ayahuasqueros, and Ethnobotanists (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2009), pp. 166-169. See also R. Gordon Wasson, “Seeking the Magic Mushroom”, Life, May 13, 1957, pp. 101-120; William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, The Yage Letters (San Francisco, CA: City Lights Books, 1975); Terence McKenna, True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author’s Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil’s Paradise (New York: HarperCollins, 1994); Susana Valadez, “Guided Tour Spirituality: Cosmic Way or Cosmic Rip-off?”, Shaman’s Drum, No. 6 (1986), pp. 4-6; We might add on a final note that even though New Age representatives such as Deepak Chopra (b. 1946), who reports that he had his first “spiritual experience” when he was seventeen years old through ingesting LSD, warns against recreational uses of psychedelics he nonetheless indiscriminately advises seekers eliciting such experiences to find an authentic traditional shaman in South America who will provide guidance on the use of these sacred plants. However, he says nothing about how this is to be accomplished nor does he warn against the many obstacles in finding such a traditional guide; furthermore he says nothing about the potential psychological dangers even if such an individual was to be found. See the following video clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C23pzvs2ERI; Chopra is a former disciple of the controversial figure Maharishi Mahesh Yogi (1914-2008), founder of the secular technique of Transcendental Meditation; see also Charles Upton, “Having It vs. Eating It: The Entrepreneurial Hinduism of Deepak Chopra” in The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age (Ghent, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2001), pp. 267-284; Rama P. Coomaraswamy, “The Desacralization of Hinduism for Western Consumption”, Sophia: The Journal of Traditional Studies, Vol. 4, No. 2 (Winter 1998), pp. 194-219.

[28] “If the Indians can consume peyote without harmful results, the question of their own heritage—psychic and spiritual, and the concomitant ritual conditions are essential factors to be considered.” [Whitall N. Perry, “Drug-Induced Mysticism: The Mescalin Hypothesis” in Challenges to a Secular Society (Oakton, VA: The Foundation for Traditional Studies, 1996), p. 15]. “One might counter that there are cultures, the Amazonian Indian tribes notably, in which ritualized drug use is a normal mode of communion with the divine. However, this fact calls for two comments that should apply to similar cultures. First, because of destiny, the psychic homogeneity of such peoples combined with the consistency of their shamanic cosmology, cannot be compared with the porous psychic heterogeneity of Westerners. Thus, if under the guidance of a shaman, an Amazonian Indian can enter into communion in a predictably consistent manner with a spirit animal which will act as a teacher and a guide, the same result cannot be necessarily expected for a Westerner intent on duplicating the experience. Secondly, the prevalence of such ritualized psychism…does not constitute a superiority per se.” [Mark Perry, “The Forbidden Door” in Every Branch in Me: Essays on the Meaning of Man, ed. Barry McDonald (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2002), pp. 270-271]

[29] René Guénon, “Shamanism and Sorcery” in The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, trans. Lord Northbourne (Ghent, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2001), pp. 177-184.

[30] Charles Upton, Cracks in the Great Wall: The UFO Phenomenon and Traditional Metaphysics (Hillsdale, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2005). See also Charles Upton, “UFOs and Traditional Metaphysics: A Postmodern Demonology” in The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age (Ghent, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2001), pp. 325-386.

[31] Terence McKenna, The Archaic Revival: Speculations on Psychedelic Mushrooms, the Amazon, Virtual Reality, UFOs, Evolution, Shamanism, the Rebirth of the Goddess, and the End of History (New York: HarperCollins, 1991); Rick Strassman, DMT: The Spirit Molecule (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2001); Rick Strassman, Slawer Wojtowicz, Luis Eduardo Luna and Ede Frecska, Inner Paths to Outer Space: Journeys to Alien Worlds through Psychedelics and Other Spiritual Technologies (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2008); Stanislav Grof, “UFOs in the Amazon: Alien Encounter of the Third Kind” in When the Impossible Happens: Adventures in Non-Ordinary Realities (Boulder, CO: Sounds True, 2006), pp. 271-274

[32] See René Guénon, “Pseudo-Initiation” in The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times, trans. Lord Northbourne (Ghent, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2001), pp. 241-251.

[33] On a side note, we might mention here that as Hubbard was a disciple of Crowley, and the fact that Hubbard influenced the field of transpersonal psychology, known in modern psychology as the “fourth force”, this brings to light its unfortunate inclusion of New Age thought which has not been sufficiently explored. “The crystallization and consolidation of the originally isolated tendencies into a new movement, or Fourth Force, in psychology was primarily the work of two men—Anthony Sutich and Abraham Maslow—both of whom had earlier played an important role in the history of humanistic psychology. Although transpersonal psychology was not established as a distinct discipline until the late 1960s, transpersonal trends in psychology had preceded it by several decades. The most important representatives of this orientation have been Carl Gustav Jung, Roberto Assagioli, and Abraham Maslow. Also the most interesting and controversial systems of dianetics and scientology developed by [L.] Ron Hubbard (1950) outside of the professional circles should be mentioned in this context.” [Stanislav Grof, “Psychotherapies with Transpersonal Orientation” in Beyond the Brain: Birth, Death, and Transcendence in Psychotherapy (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1985), p. 187]; see also Stanislav Grof, Psychology of the Future: Lessons from Modern Consciousness Research (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2000), p. 130; Whitall N. Perry, “On Cults of Unreason” in Challenges to a Secular Society (Oakton, VA: The Foundation for Traditional Studies, 1996), pp. 59-60; Bent Corydon, “L. Ron and the Beast” in L. Ron Hubbard: Messiah or Madman? (Fort Lee: NJ: Barricade Books, 1992), pp. 50-61; Russell Miller, “Black Magic and Betty” in Bare-Faced Messiah: The True Story of L. Ron Hubbard (New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1988), pp. 112-130. It should also be noted that Timothy Leary too was an Aleister Crowley enthusiast and that Aldous Huxley is reported to have dined with Crowley in Berlin in the Fall of 1930. Some even suggest that it was Aleister Crowley rather than Humphry Osmond who introduced Huxley to mescaline.

[34] For a further discussion of this topic see, “UFOs, Mass Mind-Control, and the Awliya al-Shaytan” available online at:http://www.sophiaperennis.com/uncategorized/ufos-mass-mind-control-and-the-awliya-al-shaytan-by-charles-upton-an-update-of-cracks-in-the-great-wall-ufos-and-traditional-metaphysics-sophia-perennis-2005

[35] See Timothy Leary, Ralph Metzner and Richard Alpert, The Psychedelic Experience: A Manual Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead (New York: Citadel Press, 1990)

[36] Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī, Signs of the Unseen: The Discourses of Jelaluddin Rumi, trans. W.M. Thackston, Jr. (Putney, VT: Threshold Books, 1994), p. 77.

[37] See Charles Upton, “The Postmodern Traveler: Don Carlos Castaneda” in The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age (Ghent, NY: Sophia Perennis, 2001), pp. 201-221; Richard de Mille, Castaneda’s Journey: The Power and the Allegory (Santa Barbara, CA: Capra Press, 1976); Amy Wallace, Sorcerer’s Apprentice: My Life with Carlos Castaneda (Berkeley, CA: Frog, 2003)

[38] Alan Watts, The Joyous Cosmology: Adventures in the Chemistry of Consciousness (New York: Vintage, 1965), p. 26. (Please note that this quote is not found in the original 1962 edition)

[39] Interestingly enough, James Fadiman (b. 1939), a pioneer within both humanistic and transpersonal psychology and cofounder of the Institute of Transpersonal Psychology (ITP), worked at the VA hospital in Palo Alto, California in a program that was administering psychedelics and researching their behavioral effects on veterans. In 1965 Fadiman completed his doctoral dissertation at Stanford University on this research, which was entitled: “Behavioral Change Following (LSD) Psychedelic Therapy.” “In the shadows, the CIA had tried to use these [psychedelics] substances to confuse and terrify people. Through front organizations, the CIA also sponsored small conferences and publications where therapists and researchers shared their findings.” [James Fadiman, “Therapeutic Effectiveness of Single Guided Sessions” in The Psychedelic Explorer’s Guide: Safe, Therapeutic, and Sacred Journeys (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2011), p. 104]. In response to the above citation, Charles Upton notes: “The idea that the CIA wanted to use psychedelics to “confuse and terrify” people is true as far as it goes, but they also apparently hoped that these substances could help their own agents gain magic powers: telepathy, remote viewing, etc. And they were entirely willing to confuse and delight people if that would serve their ends. The hippy myth that the CIA were a bunch of uptight straight people who “couldn’t hold their acid” and saw it only as a crazy-making pill needs to be permanently debunked. The Bohemian/magician/secret agent is a well-known type; both occultist John Dee [1527-1608/1609] (the original 007) and Satanist Aleister Crowley worked for British Intelligence. The ultimate goal of the powers-that-be in terms of psychedelic research may be to create a type of “spirituality” where even mystical experiences that are valid on a certain level will serve to establish their control. They want to own everything—even mysticism, even spiritual aspiration, even God.” See also Jay Stevens, Storming Heaven: LSD and the American Dream (New York: Grove Press, 1987); Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain, Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond (New York: Grove Press, 1992); Richard B. Spence, Secret Agent 666: Aleister Crowley, British Intelligence and the Occult (Port Townsend, WA: Feral House, 2008)

[40] It is useful to recall that Adi Da or Franklin Albert Jones (1939-2008), who Ken Wilber regarded as the “the greatest living Realizer”, this being only one of a host of other extraordinary endorsements offered by Wilber in his praise, and who considered himself the first and last seventh stage Adept above all other saints and sages of the perennial philosophy, was, interestingly enough, a scientologist before becoming the first American Avatar. It is widely known that Adi Da has had a tremendous influence upon Wilber’s work and that of quite a few others within the general humanistic and transpersonal orientation, many of whom prefer to be anonymous disciples from afar in order to escape the numerous controversies and criticism surrounding Adi Da. In light of this, it would be interesting to inquire into how many ideas Wilber has contributed to both humanistic and transpersonal psychology which are borrowed from Adi Da; one might even wonder if Wilber’s Integral Movement itself is more or less a product of Adi Da’s teaching. The following excerpt, is taken from Adi Da’s spiritual biography which has subsequently gone through numerous revisions, provides much food for thought on the government’s role in engineering not only the counter-culture at large but New Age spirituality as well: “I voluntarily submitted to drug trials at the Veterans Administration hospital in Palo Alto, California…. At the VA hospital, I was given a dose of drugs one day per week…. I was told that I would be given mescalin, LSD, or psilocybin at three separate sessions, and, during a fourth session, some combination of these…. There were also various bizarre experiences and periods of anxiety…I suffered mild anxiety attacks and occasional nervousness for perhaps a year beyond the actual tests…. I had become conscious of the formal structure of the living human being, associated with…the ‘chakra body’. The Kundalini Shakti was spontaneously Aroused in me…” [Adi Da Samraj, The Knee of Listening: The Divine Ordeal of the Avataric Incarnation of Conscious Light (Middletown, CA: The Dawn Horse Press, 2004), pp. 81-83]; While we do not want to overstep our inquiry by making any hasty assumptions or enter into polemics, it would be worth mentioning that Adi Da considers Adidam to be a new revelation or religion as can been seen in the title of the following work: Adidam: The True World-Religion Given by the Promised God-Man, Adi Da Samraj (Middletown, CA: The Dawn Horse Press, 2003). However, we are reminded of the traditional position regarding this possibility in the current phase of the Kali-Yuga: “…after a certain period, whatever is put forward as a new religion is inevitably false; the Middle Ages mark grosso modo the final limit.” [Frithjof Schuon, “The Quran” in Understanding Islam, trans. D.M. Matheson (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 1998), p. 47], including: “[T]he cyclic moment for the manifestation of the great perspectives (darshanas) is past; readaptations—in the sense of a legitimate and therefore adequate and efficacious synthesis—are always possible, but not the manifestations of perspectives that are fundamental and ‘new’ as to their form.” [Frithjof Schuon, “Orthodoxy and Intellectuality” in Stations of Wisdom (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom Books, 1995), p. 5]. The following is a declaration of Ken Wilber’s enthusiastic endorsement for Adi Da: “[M]y opinion is that we have, in the person of Da Free John [Adi Da], a Spiritual Master and religious genius of the ultimate degree…Da Free John’s [Adi Da’s] teaching is, I believe, unsurpassed by that of any other spiritual Hero, of any period, of any place, of any time, of any persuasion.” [Ken Wilber, “Forward: ‘On Heroes and Cults’” to Da Free John, Scientific Proof of the Existence of God Will Soon Be Announced by the White House! (Middletown, CA: The Dawn Horse Press, 1980), p. 6]; see also Franklin Jones, “The Problem of the Mind, and the Year of Waiting for Grace” in The Knee of Listening: The Early Life and Radical Spiritual Teachings of Franklin Jones (Los Angeles, CA: The Dawn Horse Press, 1973), pp. 83-87; Bubba Free John, Garbage and the Goddess: The Last Miracles and Final Spiritual Instructions of Bubba Free John, eds. Sandy Bonder and Terry Patten (Lower Lake, CA: Dawn Horse Press, 1974); Ken Wilber, “The One Who Was To Come Is Always Already Here”: A Short Appreciation of the Teaching of Bubba Free John”, Vision Mound Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 9 (May 1979), pp. 28-29; Ken Wilber, “The Case of Adi Da” (October 11, 1996), available on the Shambhala website: http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/misc/adida.cfm/; Ken Wilber, “An Update on the Case of Adi Da” (August 28, 1998), available on the Shambhala website: http://wilber.shambhala.com/html/misc/adida_update.cfm/; Georg Feuerstein, “The Many Faces of Da Love-Ananda (Da Free John)” in Holy Madness: The Shock Tactics and Radical Teachings of Crazy-Wise Adepts, Holy Fools, and Rascal Gurus (New York: Paragon House, 1991), pp. 80-100; Harry Oldmeadow, “Easter Teachings, Western Teachers, 1950-2000” in Journeys East: 20th Century Western Encounters with Eastern Traditions (Bloomington, IN: World Wisdom, 2004), pp. 276-277.  

[41] Peter Levenda, Sinister Forces—A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft: A Warm Gun (Waterville, OR: TrineDay, 2006), p. 317); See also Art Kleps, Millbrook: The True Story of the Early Years of the Psychedelic Revolution (Oakland, CA: Bench Press, 1977); Martin A. Lee and Bruce Shlain, “Preaching LSD” in Acid Dreams: The Complete Social History of LSD: The CIA, the Sixties, and Beyond (New York: Grove Press, 1992), pp. 97-100; Stanley Krippner, “Music to Eat Mushrooms By” in Song of the Siren: A Parapsychological Odyssey (New York: Harper & Row, 1977), pp. 19-45.

[42] For some examples see John C. Lilly, The Scientist: A Novel Autobiography (New York: J.B. Lippincott, 1978); Aleister Crowley, Diary of a Drug Fiend (York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, 1997); Tom Wolfe, The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1968); Wade Davis, “The Red Hotel” in One River: Explorations and Discoveries in the Amazon Rain Forest (New York: Touchstone, 1997), pp. 151-152; Terence McKenna, True Hallucinations: Being an Account of the Author’s Extraordinary Adventures in the Devil’s Paradise (New York: HarperCollins, 1994); Terence McKenna and Dennis McKenna, “Psychological Reflections on La Chorrera” in The Invisible Landscape: Mind, Hallucinogens, and the I Ching (New York: HarperCollins, 1994), pp. 109-117; Laurent Weichberger (ed.), A Mirage Will Never Quench Your Thirst: A Source of Wisdom About Drugs (North Myrtle Beach, SC: Sheriar Foundation, 2003); Charles Hayes (ed.), Tripping: An Anthology of True-Life Psychedelic Adventures (New York: Penguin Books, 2000)

[43] William Griffith Wilson, more commonly known as Bill Wilson (1895-1971), the co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.) was convinced of the therapeutic potential of psychedelics, especially LSD with alcoholism. It is reported that Gerald Heard (1889-1971), close friend and colleague of Aldous Huxley, in 1956 guided Bill Wilson on an LSD session which had profound and lasting impact on his life. Interesting to note that like Huxley it was Dr. Osmond who first drew Wilson’s attention to psychedelics. See also ‘Pass It On’: The Story of Bill Wilson and How the A.A. Message Reached the World (New York: Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, 1984); Betty Eisner, “The Birth and Death of Psychedelic Therapy” in Roger Walsh and Charles S. Grob (eds.), Higher Wisdom: Eminent Elders Explore the Continuing Impact of Psychedelics (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 2005), pp. 93-94.

[44] Harris Friedman, “The Renewal of Psychedelic Research: Implications for Humanistic and Transpersonal Psychology”, The Humanistic Psychologist, Vol. 34, No. 1 (2006), pp. 39-58; W.V. Caldwell, LSD Psychotherapy: An Exploration of Psychedelic and Psycholytic Therapy (New York: Grove Press, 1968); Lester Grinspoon and James B. Bakalar, Psychedelic Drugs Reconsidered (New York: Basic Books, 1979); Lester Grinspoon and James B. Bakalar, “Can Drugs Be Used to Enhance the Psychotherapeutic Process?”, American Journal of Psychotherapy, Vol. 40, No. 3 (1986), pp. 393-404; Rick Strassman, “Hallucinogenic Drugs in Psychiatric Research and Treatment: Perspectives and Prospects”, Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease, Vol. 183, No. 3 (1995), pp. 175-186; Gary Bravo and Charles Grob, “Psychedelic Therapy” in Textbook of Transpersonal Psychiatry and Psychology, eds. Bruce W. Scotton, Allan B. Chinen and John R. Battista (New York: BasicBooks, 1996), pp. 335-343; Myron J. Stolaroff, The Secret Chief: Conversations with a Pioneer of the Underground Psychedelic Therapy Movement (Charlotte, NC: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, 1997); Rick Doblin, “A Clinical Plan for MDMA (Ecstasy) in the Treatment of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD): Partnering with the FDA”, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol. 34 (2002), pp. 185-194; Marilyn Howell, Honor Thy Daughter (Santa Cruz, CA: Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, 2011); J.B. Hittner and S.B. Quello, “Combating Substance Abuse with Ibogaine: Pre- and Posttreatment Recommendations and An Example of Successive Model Fitting Analysis”, Journal of Psychoactive Drugs, Vol. 36, No. 2 (2004), pp. 191-199; Jeffrey J. Kripal, “Mind Manifest: Psychedelia at Early Esalen and Beyond” in Esalen: America and the Religion of No Religion (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 2007), pp. 112-134; Francisco A. Moreno, Christopher B. Wiegand, E. Keolani Taitano, and Pedro L. Delgado, “Safety, Tolerability, and Efficacy of Psilocybin in 9 Patients With Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder”, Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Vol. 67, No. 11 (2006), pp. 1735-1740; A.C. Parrott, “The Psychotherapeutic Potential of MDMA (3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine): An Evidence-Based Review”, Psychopharmacology, Vol. 191 (2007), pp. 181-193; Michael J. Winkelman and Thomas B. Roberts (eds.), Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence for Hallucinogenic Substances as Treatments, Vol. 1 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007); Michael J. Winkelman and Thomas B. Roberts (eds.), Psychedelic Medicine: New Evidence for Hallucinogenic Substances as Treatments, Vol. 2 (Westport, CT: Praeger, 2007); M.W. Johnson, W.A. Richards and R.R Griffiths, “Human Hallucinogen Research: Guidelines for Safety”, Journal of Psychopharmacology, Vol. 22, No. 6 (2008), pp. 603-620; P.Ø. Johansen and T.S. Krebs, “How Could MDMA (Ecstasy) Help Anxiety Disorders? A Neurobiological Rationale”, Journal of Psychopharmacology, Vol. 23, No. 4 (2009), pp. 389-391; Michael C. Mithoefer, Mark T. Wagner, Ann T. Mithoefer, Lisa Jerome and Rick Doblin, “The Safety and Efficacy of ±3,4-Methylenedioxymethamphetamine-Assisted Psychotherapy in Subjects with Chronic, Treatment-Resistant Posttraumatic Stress Disorder: The First Randomized Controlled Pilot Study”, Journal of Psychopharmacology, Vol. 25, No. 4 (2011), pp. 439-452.

[45] “A grant from a branch of the Masons, the Scottish Rite Foundation for Schizophrenia Research, helped establish the merit of my study a year before I actually began it. Why the Masons had an interest in schizophrenia in general, and DMT in particular, I do not know, but I believe that garnering such support enhanced the esteem of my study in the eyes of the relevant regulatory and funding agencies.” [Rick Strassman, “DMT: The Brain’s Own Psychedelic” in Rick Strassman, Slawer Wojtowicz, Luis Eduardo Luna and Ede Frecska, Inner Paths to Outer Space: Journeys to Alien Worlds through Psychedelics and Other Spiritual Technologies (Rochester, VT: Park Street Press, 2008), p. 48]; “Curiously, another MKULTRA faction consisted of representatives of the Scottish Rite of Masonry, which had sponsored research into eugenics, psychiatry, and mind control since at least the 1930s. MKULTRA doctor Robert Hanna Felix [1904-1990] was director of psychiatric research for the Scottish Rite of Freemasonry, and the director of the National Institute of Mental Health. Felix was the immediate senior of Dr. Harris Isbell, already noted in relation to MKULTRA. Another prominent Freemason involved in MKULTRA was Dr. Paul Hoch [1902-1964], financed by the Army Chemical Center.” [Jim Keith, “The CIA and Control” in Mass Control: Engineering Human Consciousness (Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2003), p. 65]. Another interesting figure to be mentioned in this discussion is Andrija Puharich, also known as Henry K. Puharich (1918-1995), who was well-known for his work in parapsychology and affiliated with many influential members of the counter-culture and was also intimately involved with “The Council of Nine” or “The Nine”, a New Age channeling cult. “After the demise of Puharich’s Round Table [Foundation, located in Glen Cove, Maine] he spent time with social engineer Aldous Huxley in Tecate, Mexico, again studying the effects of electronics on the human organism. Puharich was also employed at the Army’s Chemical and Biological Warfare Center at Fort Detrick, Maryland, researching the effects of LSD for the CIA in 1954. He delved into the effects of digatoid drugs at the Permanente Research Foundation, with funding from the Sandoz Chemical Works.” [Jim Keith, “Electronic Mind Control” in Mass Control: Engineering Human Consciousness (Kempton, IL: Adventures Unlimited Press, 2003), p. 176]; See also H.P. Albarelli, Jr., “Notes” in A Terrible Mistake: The Murder of Frank Olson and the CIAs Secret Cold War Experiments (Walterville, OR: Trine Day, 2009), p. 792. For an interesting book on “The Council of Nine” see Lynn Picknett and Clive Prince, The Stargate Conspiracy: The Truth about Extraterrestrial life and the Mysteries of Ancient Egypt (New York: Berkley Books, 2001)

[46] See Rama Coomaraswamy, “Catholic Writings” at the following website: http://www.the-pope.com/coomcawr.html.

The True Q: An Analysis of the QAnon Phenomenon

There was once a 60’s rock band named Question Mark and the Mysterians. The famous conspiracy blogger of today known as QAnon, or just Q, is Question Mark, the perfect personification of the contemporary paranoid conspiracy culture. He is the Deep Throat of Cyberspace, Loki, Coyote, the Joker, the Riddler, the omnipotent imp “Q” of the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series. He is the universal Trickster of our contemporary world of weaponized information. He is in the loop, he is in the know, he is the quintessential Insider, the absolute Whistleblower, the ultimate Mole. He sits at the same table with the Bilderbergers, the Freemasons, the Zionist Conspiracy, the CIA, MI6, Russian Intelligence, the Drug Cartels, the Deep State, the Global Elites, Vladimir Putin and President Donald Trump. He has microphones in the Pentagon and bugs in the Vatican. He caters, records and photographs the midnight Luciferian revels of the transnational elites at Bohemian Grove. He is the answer to every mystery, the final secret at the darkest center of every conspiracy, the perfectly-contrived mirror reflecting all our deepest fears and desires, all the secret wishes and terrors of anyone dedicated to beating the Great Cryptocracy at its own game, of anyone who will sell his soul to find out. And his purpose? His purpose is to undermine and destroy valid, objective research by turning everything into suggestion and innuendo and synchronicity and symbolism and secret code. He is the great Misdirector of Attention who sends all us mystery-hounds down 600 blind alleys every week, along with 60 half-valid alleys and 6 actually true ones, just to make sure we keep digging 300 wells and sinking 300 exploratory shafts every seven days, until we are thoroughly inflamed, pulverized and burnt out. Information is not so much hidden by encryption and censorship and threat of abduction and assassination in our time (though all of these tools can still be used whenever the need arises) as by obscuring it with information-overload, by building a haystack around every needle. Did we ever dream that in some imaginary, perfect world the Cryptocracy would finally be forced to come clean and spill the beans, all of them? Q is that very dream seemingly come true, the great inverted psychopomp who is here to steer dedicated researchers in false directions, to convince fools that they are now privy to all the secrets, and to darken the minds of those who become addicted to the drug he offers, the drug by which true qualitative, meaningful knowledge is rendered quantitative, barren and meaningless, the drug called Knowledge-Without-a-Center. If one of the great mind-control techniques is “deferred closure”—the process of endlessly feeding us tantalizing clues, some of them mutually-corroborating and some of them contradictory, to a picture that can never be complete, until we finally break down and settle for a self-created delusion to satisfy our desperate need for closure—then Q is deferred closure on steroids.

When, as a society, we believed in God, when we knew He was omniscient, that not a sparrow falls without His knowledge, then we could rest content in the faith that everything that needed to be known was known—in Him. But the human race has rejected God now, debunked Him, killed Him; we have done this because we have hankered to take His place, to assume every one of His functions and prove that we can fulfill them better than He ever could. We wanted not just His omnipotence but His omniscience—because knowledge is power. We wanted to know everything. And so now Q, who is also the antibody designed to mimic the “hacktivists” of Anonymous and neutralize them, has appeared out of the infernal regions of the intelligence community to feed that delusion, to inflame that obsession, to cater to that need to know. Icarus flew and fell. Prometheus stole fire from Zeus and the eagle ate his liver. A little knowledge may be a dangerous thing, but too much information is infinitely worse. To paraphrase and extend the famous line of T.S. Eliot, “Where is the wisdom lost in knowledge? Where is the knowledge lost in information? Where is the information lost in Q?”

If Q was really interested in de-mystifying the Cryptocracy, he would pick one line of research at a time, elucidate it, deepen it, complete it, bring information to bear on it from many different directions, and thereby reach and establish a single conclusion—and he would do it with plenty of footnotes, he would reveal and cite his sources whenever possible. That’s good investigative journalism. Instead, Q appears as the great deconstructor, underminer and saboteur of investigative journalism, pursuing 60 mysteries at the same time, each one of which opens into 60 more. Instead of doing his best to gather information together, order it, establish a single center, articulate a single certainty, he fragments information just like the internet does, he blows it to the four winds. Fake news becomes anti-news. He makes any kind of certainty impossible, until—according to the strict canons of postmodernism—the very belief that certainty could be possible, the ability to grasp what this notion of “certainty” is supposed to be, or might once have been, is totally obliterated. Postmodernism teaches us that nothing can be known for sure, which—of course—creates in us an insatiable desire to know everything, just like starvation creates hunger. Then Q appears to service that desire, thereby not just asserting but exhaustively proving the original premise: that nothing can be known. Just as pornography deconstructs sex, so Q deconstructs knowledge, and does so using precisely the same method: the tease. If everything is true, then nothing is a true. If everything is a lie, then what can the exposé of that lie be but another lie? Think about it: would you describe Q as someone, or some thing, who loves the truth? And if not, then how can we avoid the traps he sets—especially when almost every “truth” we turn up, in our obsession to tear the veil off the mysteries, is hateful and bitter?

We can avoid them by cultivating the love of truth in ourselves.

The distinction between the virtue of wisdom and the vice of curiosity is given in the Book of Proverbs, which advises us to avoid the call of the “foolish woman” and respond instead to the call of Holy Wisdom. Proverbs describes the foolish woman as follows:

She sits at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city
Calling to the travelers who pass by on their way:
“Whoever is a fool, let him pay me a visit”. And to the one who lacks understanding, she says:
“Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret pleasant.”
What he doesn’t understand is that the dead are there, and all her guests are in the deepest
pit of hell.
(Proverbs 9: 14-18)

But Holy Wisdom says something else, something that may sound the same but is in fact an entirely different proposition:

She sends out her maidens, she cries out on the highest places of the city:
“Whoever is foolish, let him come to my house.” And to the one who needs understanding, she says:
“Come, eat my bread, and drink the wine I have prepared;
Abandon fools and live, and walk the paths of understanding….
(Proverbs 9:3-6)

“Hear instruction, get wisdom, and don’t refuse it:
Lucky is the man who hears me, who watches daily at my gates, who waits at my threshold.
Whoever finds me finds life, and will find favor in the eyes of God;
But whoever sins against me wrongs his own soul: all who hate me, love death.”
(Proverbs 8:33-36)

Q is the “foolish woman” of Proverbs—let’s call her “Queenie.” As prostitutes and pornography destroy men’s virility, so Queenie’s endless tease of maybe-false-maybe-true information drains the virility of the Intellect, blinds the Eye of the Heart. If you don’t want to take her bait, then find a knowledge you can love, and love it. If you do, then every lie in the universe, one by one, will do its best to come between you and that single love, thereby making itself vulnerable to exposure. In the simple defense of the truth you love, the “one thing needful” (Luke 10:42), all the lies that assail that truth can, God willing, be unmasked and defeated, because they can be weighed against a true and known value, against “Wisdom more precious than rubies” (Proverbs 8:11).

“And the gates of Hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18); there is no other way to make sense of the ambiguities and illusions of existence. In the words of the Holy Qur’an, Truth has come and falsehood has vanished away; truly falsehood is ever bound to vanish (17:81).

On Sexual Harassment; on Trigenderism

The unprecedented Liberal campaign against sexual harassment that is going on in the United States today is a clear sign that Liberalism is on its last legs. It was Liberalism that took as one of its central principles the idea that no form of sexual expression (except pedophilia) is sinful or pathological—that, as Freud believed, the only sexual sin is sexual repression. It was Liberalism that legalized pornography and made it universally available. And it was Liberalism that reduced the whole spectrum of erotic attraction between the sexes to physical sex alone by declaring the ethos of Romance to be dead. But now, with exquisite irony, it is precisely Liberalism that is in the process of criminalizing not only rape and true sexual harassment, but also calling into question every form of “flirting”, courtship, and sexual communication between men and women outside marriage. Of course the important distinction is made between consensual and non-consensual sex in action, speech or gesture—but if no sex act is intrinsically immoral, if all sexual repression is pathological, if the objectifying and dehumanizing of sexuality in the context of pornography is entirely acceptable, if the romantic dance between the sexes is now a thing of the past, then what happens to the distinction between consensual and non-consensual sex? It is at the very least put under immense pressure and rendered contradictory and ambiguous. If sexual morality is seen as old-fashioned and repressive, then nothing remains but sexual selfishness and brutality. The upshot is that Liberalism, which is in the process of outlawing the public expression of Christianity, is, in effect, simultaneously re-establishing the equivalent Christian sexual morality by defining more and more forms of sexual expression outside marriage as inherently sinful. An ethos wracked and buffeted by this degree of self-contradiction is obviously not long for this world.

California has now officially recognized three genders, thus proving that it is not really possible to change a man into a woman or a woman into a man, otherwise there would still be only two.

The Long Road to Sacred Activism: A Confession

The road of Excess leads to the palace of Wisdom. 
~~William Blake

If the Fool would persist in his folly he would become wise.
~~William Blake

Do you think you can take over the universe and improve it?
I don’t believe it can be done.
~~ Lao Tzu

The Catholic writer Charles Péguy once wrote: “Everything begins in mysticism and ends in politics.”  Be that as it may, mysticism and politics were the poles between which the current of my post-WWII Baby Boom generation—or at least the “counter-culture” sector of it—primarily flowed.

I was born and raised as a Catholic in the pre-Vatican II Church; my entire formal education consisted of 14 years in Catholic school from nursery school and kindergarten through high school. Around 1966, however, my identification with Catholicism began to wane, just as the traditional Church and the sacramental order were being deconstructed, though at the time I was not entirely conscious of these developments. Nonetheless I expressed my feelings about them in my 1968 “short epic” poem Panic Grass:

Despair! Christ has burst your churches and
cracked your tabernacles wide,
and the Glory of God has fled into the mountains!

In the late 1960’s the pole of mysticism was best represented by the dharmic religions of Asia, Hinduism and Buddhism—or at least those aspects of them that survived importation into the West—the practice of which involved yoga, meditation, and veneration of the guru. These we promiscuously mixed with Shamanism (primarily Native American), Spiritualism, occultism, magic, the quest for psychic powers, and every non-traditional “spirituality” imaginable. Western Christian, Jewish and Sufi mysticism also played a part, though their influence was less central. And of course the whole mass was energized, and rendered increasingly chaotic, by the liberal use of LSD and other psychedelics.

The 60’s were the decade when the post-WWII civil rights movement, the growing popular interest in mystical spirituality, and the protest movement against the Vietnam War met and cross-pollinated. From, say, 1967 through the early 70’s, the dominant expression of the activist pole of Péguy’s dyad was the anti-war movement. To the people of my age group, late teens to early twenties—at least those of the hippy persuasion—this movement was more or less taken for granted as part of the zeitgeist. We would show up at riots and anti-war demonstrations in much the same spirit as we attended spiritual gatherings or rock concerts; they were simply part of the “scene”, and we were hell-bent on making that scene. Our older compatriots, particularly those with backgrounds in the civil rights movement, were often better-trained as serious activists, and tended to follow either various schools of Marxism, or else the non-violent resistance theories and tactics of Mohandas K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King. But I and my contemporaries in Marin County, California were little more than hangers-on. When the summer of 1967 was dubbed “Vietnam Summer”, we hung around the local V.S. office in San Rafael, intermittently acting as drivers, flyer-posters etc. But in most cases our “commitment” involved little study of political theory or training in the tactics of protest, nor did it (in most cases) grow out of any real personal insight based on serious thought or struggle. The military draft was enough to “radicalize” us, and the protest songs of the era were all the “theory” we felt we needed.

However, since we were attending anti-war demonstrations, patronizing the teachers to be found on the guru circuit, and dropping thermonuclear acid, it was natural that we would begin to ask ourselves how mysticism and politics might be brought together in a single practice. Beat Generation poet Allen Ginsberg and others had introduced such notions as intoning “OM” during demonstrations, in order to spread “waves of peace” and generally empower the movement whose operative word was—peace. So it was probably inevitable that the polarity between the radical encounter with Reality with a capital R provided by LSD (at least sometimes, and not without subtle negative consequences), and the various forms of militant collective blindness we were sworn to work against (though sometimes forced to participate in) during the course of that work, posited a “dialectic” of sorts. Thesis: “Everything is possible”. Antithesis: “History is an unstoppable juggernaut.” Synthesis—? (We’ll have to get back to you on that one—in this life or the next.)

For me and my emerging peer-group—the San Francisco poets—the 1970’s were a decade of introversion. The “consciousness” explosion of the 60’s was subsiding, leaving depression in its wake. Alcohol increasingly became the drug of choice, though not to the degree (heaven forbid) that it crowded out all the other drugs. Feminism was turning a cold fire-hose on the hippy love-fest, generally pooping the party. Where young people had traveled to the San Francisco Bay Area during the 60’s to be hippies, in the 70’s they went there either to be poets or to come out as gay—sometimes both. When I first met my Beat Generation poetic mentor, Lew Welch, in the late 1960’s, poets were few and far between—a handful of the Beats and a few of their younger protégés, such as myself, John Oliver Simon, David Meltzer, etc. A few years later there were an estimated five thousand poets in the Bay Area, whose collective efforts in the name of self-advertisement were one of the factors that has made poetry almost a hated art in this country. As the Marxist/leftist poets pursued their course with the help of Pablo Neruda and Cesar Vallejo, we “deep image” poets were studying the Jungians, and devouring all the mythopoesis we could get our hands on, of whatever historical era, seeing it largely through Jungian eyes. In the terminology of the Bardo Thödöl (Tibetan Book of the Dead), the 1970’s were “the bardo of seeking  rebirth”, the collective attempt to return to something like a human form, by sweeping up the dead leaves of the soul we’d shed along the road, after LSD and the cosmic melodrama of the 1960’s had blown us to the four winds.

The fitting end to this era was the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which foreshadowed a return to politics with a vengeance, and heralded an era in which religion would become more central to political struggle, in western world and the world as a whole, than it had been (perhaps) at any time since the Reformation and the Hundred Years War. The churches had become deeply involved in the anti-war movement of the 1960’s. This development was well represented in the Catholic world by various “radical priests” like the Berrigan brothers and by the tradition of Dorothy Day and the Catholic Workers movement; in the Evangelical Protestant world by Martin Luther King, the Sojourners community and others; and in Quakerism by the American Friends Service Committee, whose main focus in the 60’s had been support for conscientious objectors to the military draft. In the 1980’s, these various expressions of the North American “social gospel” tradition coalesced and gained a new impetus through the movement of solidarity with the revolutions of Nicaragua, El Salvador and Guatemala, and the struggle to block large-scale U.S. intervention against them.

The theoretical context for the peace movement of the 1980’s was provided by Liberation Theology, which arose, mostly in Latin America, through a cross-pollination between radical leftist politics and the Catholic Church. The central ideologues of this movement included Dom Helder Camara, Gustavo Gurierrez, Leonardo Boff, Juan Luis Segundo, and Ernesto Cardenal, Catholic priest and poet, whose three-volume book of dialogues, The Gospel in Solentiname, was an important influence. Father Cardenal, who later became Minister of Culture of Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, had a parish on an island in an archipelago in Lake Nicaragua; his congregation was made up mostly of the local fishermen and women. But due to his international reputation as a poet and Marxist/Catholic intellectual, his parish became a place of pilgrimage for intellectuals, artists and revolutionaries from many parts of the world. Cardenal organized dialogues between the peasants, the local activists and the visiting intellectuals, who together began to develop a Theology of Liberation which was equally a creation of the intelligentia and the uneducated poor—a very interesting development in both political and cultural terms.

In the mid-1980’s, Liberation Theology appeared to my wife Jenny and myself as a viable way to unite religion (if not mysticism) and politics; we responded by joining a small Christian congregation in Marin County—Santa Venetia Presbyterian Church—that was active in the Sanctuary Movement for Central American refugees, along with many of the local Catholic churches. The pastor, Carolyn Studer, had wanted to participate in the Sanctuary Movement, so she stacked the Session (governing board) of her church with activist insurgents—us. This caused a few members of the church to leave, but most accepted this development in good faith. (This was a better outcome than was experienced by many churches that went through the same sort of “imposed radicalization” process in the 1980’s, which often led to serious splits in the congregations involved.) Consequently Jenny and myself remain lifetime elders of the United Presbyterian Church. [NOTE: “Santa Venetia” is the name of no Christian saint, but rather of a housing development in San Rafael, California, build around some tideland sloughs, which a developer in earlier decades had tried to market as a kind of “Venice by the Bay”, though I can’t imagine any place on earth that looks less like Venice.]

The precipitating events for the Sanctuary Movement included the murder of three American Maryknoll nuns in El Salvador for the crime of working with the peasants, and the assassination of Archbishop Oscar Romero—who had begun to denounce the death-squads— while he was saying Mass in his own church, by death-squad killers. I wrote a poem about Romero’s assassination which was published in the Maryknoll magazine.

The moral rationale for the Sanctuary Movement was as follows: Since it was well-known that the United States, with the help of the national War College, had provided training to the Salvadoran death squads, and that the terror in El Salvador was driving many Salvadoran from their country, we had a duty, both as Americans and as Christians, to protect those refugees who made it to the United States. The Salvadoran refugees, as illegal aliens, were considered to be criminals under federal law, so we resurrected the old tradition which held that criminals fleeing the civil authorities could be granted sanctuary in Christian churches, where they would remain exempt from arrest as long as they stayed on the church grounds. Not all the refugees we were working with lived on church property of course; nonetheless we invoked the spirit if not the letter of the old sanctuary rule to serve them.

During this period we re-connected with the San Francisco poetry scene. The “Caucasian” poets of the Left were partnering with the Latino poets of the Bay Area—like Roberto Vargas, who later became the Nicaraguan ambassador to China—to express solidarity with the revolutions of Central America; the main centers for this political/cultural ferment were the Mission Cultural Center in San Francisco and La Peña Cultural Center in Berkeley. I began collecting poems for a anthology in solidarity with the Salvadoran revolution; James Laughlin of New Directions had agreed to publish it. Then one of the Bay Area Salvadoran politicos “appropriated” the project (I probably should have fought to keep it), the upshot being that the anthology was never published. Another less-than-successful project was my attempt to bring Ernesto Cardenal, then Minister of Culture of Nicaragua under the Sandinistas, to the Bay Area. (Cardenal had studied under Father Thomas Merton at the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemani in Kentucky. Merton, also a poet, acted as a kind of spiritual adviser to the peace movement and the increasingly rudderless Catholic Church after the Second Vatican Council, reaching out to Buddhists, to Sufis, to poets and peace activists—despite the fact that, to my way of thinking, he was becoming increasingly rudderless himself.) Cardenal and I corresponded for a short time, but nothing came of it; later he was invited to San Francisco by the more established poetry commisars of the Mission District, working in concert with Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books, who had published my Panic Grass. Poetry in this context was considered to be a kind of motivational tool. It was not quite propaganda, but it was nonetheless expected to fulfill a utilitarian function under the rubric of “cultural resistance”. During those days we became friends with people like poet Fernando Alegría, colleague of Pablo Neruda, who had been part of the Leftist Allende government in Chile. Allende, as you will remember, was assassinated in a military coup backed by the United States; his government was replaced by a junta headed by dictator Augusto Pinochet, known for his practice of “disappearing” his opponents.

One of the notable people we met during this time was Joan McCarthy. She had been a Catholic nun who was appointed mother superior of a convent in Mexico when she was hardly out of her teens; in that capacity she was treated as a kind of seeress by the Mexican peasants. Then at one point a choice was presented her: should she go to South America and become part of the Liberation Theology movement (under either Leonardo Boff or Dom Helder Camara, I forget which)? Or should she accept the invitation of a local “white” bruja (sorceress) to study traditional Mexican sorcery? She had partnered with the bruja to defend the peasants from oppression by the “black” brujos of the region, who at that point had a monopoly on medical care in the remote rural areas. Anyone who became ill had to resort to these people, who were most likely running a sort of protection racket, threatening to use their magic to make people sick instead of curing them if they didn’t pay up. Joan and the bruja were training young local men as herbal doctors so as to undercut the power of the brujos. The bruja had told her: “I will show you the powers of the Garlic Flower, of the Silver Sword, and of the Cross—but the greatest power is Love.” Joan, however, chose the path of Liberation Theology, and left for South America.

This story highlights one of the questions that will always come up when any attempt is made to unite mysticism and politics: the question of magic. Spiritual power is infinite, social conditions are finite—so why not simply “tap” the power of Spirit to transform social conditions? What is routinely forgotten when this question is posed is: whose agenda do we intend to follow? Is it we—as individuals, or as members of a movement—who have the right to say what spiritual power shall be used for? Is such power just sitting there passively in the higher worlds, like oil in the ground, waiting for whoever has the ability and the chutzpa to drill for it? Or does God Himself have a plan for the use of this power—a power which, of course, is exclusively His in any case? I remember how, on one occasion, Jenny and I attended a lecture on Mexican sorcery, by a rather unsavory young couple, at the La Peña Cultural Center. After the lecture I asked a question: “If there is such a thing as Liberation Theology, could there also be such a thing as Liberation Sorcery?” “It’s hard to use spells against bullets” the speaker answered. What I should have said—I’m still kicking myself for not thinking of it—was: “Yes—but think of the possibilities for of psy-ops and military intelligence.” (I later discovered that these possibilities had already been explored by the CIA in their “remote viewing” experiments.)

I had had already dabbled briefly in freelance sorcery in the early 1970’s, soon after the time when my poetic mentor, Beat Generation poet Lew Welch, introduced me to Carlos Castaneda at Lew’s “Full Moon Mussel Feast” at Muir Beach, California. (For those who don’t remember him, Castaneda was the one who introduced something that purported to be Native American sorcery to the American mainstream through his highly popular “Don Juan” books.) Through the use of the Castaneda techniques I was able to produce a few experiences of “non-ordinary reality” without the help of psychedelics. I ultimately concluded, however, that I had no compelling reason to pursue that path; it was only later that I began to realize how close I had come to the edge of the Abyss. It is my belief that the main attraction to magic for many people is a sense of powerlessness; this was certainly true in my case. Like the Tibetans say, “If you are strong, fight; if you are weak, curse.”

My closest and most convincing pass through the world of “non-ordinary reality”, however, involved the “psychic surgeons” of the Philippines, who are true white magicians. They operated on me several times, in both the Philippines and California, and I watched them operate on others. They definitely do have the ability to open the human body with their hands alone and remove foreign material, after which the incision spontaneously closes, like the water does when you lift your hands from a water-filled bowl. They once popped my eye out of its socket and then put it back again, and I experienced absolutely no pain. (Other Americans waiting to be operated on confirmed this to me—with shocked expressions.) Another patient told me how they had broken his deformed foot open, spread the sides apart, and then put it back together, also painlessly. The psychic surgeons use an ancient shamanic technique in which they work with “spirit-helpers” (i.e., the “good” Fairies or “faithful” Jinn); similar powers were reported by early anthropologists among certain primitive tribes, such as the inhabitants of Tierra del Fuego. The present psychic surgeons of the Philippines are mostly Christians, and say that they and their helpers are working together under the direction of the Holy Spirit. However, after the last time I saw them, in California in the early 90’s, I dreamt of Antichrist, after which my Sufi advisor firmly suggested that I stop seeing them. I’m reminded of how, according to “perennialist” writer Martin Lings in A Sufi Saint of the Twentieth Century, the great Sufi shaykh Ahmed al-‘Alawi indulged in miraculous karamat (miracles, wonders) in his earlier life, all of which he later gave up, except for the practice of snake-charming—until he met Shaykh al-Buzaidi, who told him: “It would be better for you to learn to control the snake that lies between the two sides of your body.”

In the 70’s and early 80’s, under the influence of both the Castaneda books and another book entitled The Magic of Findhorn, I was in the habit of going “elf hunting” while hiking through the beautiful coastal woods of California, with or without the use of marijuana or stronger psychedelics. (J. R. R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy was on the hippy reading-list, leading some of us to believe that, with the help of LSD, it would literally be possible for us to live like Hobbits, which resulted in the construction of a number of “Hobbit-houses” in Bolinas and Stinson Beach.) Finally I developed a combination of visualizations and breathing-exercises that allowed me, with no other aid, to allow my gaze to penetrate the screen of the forest into the Forest behind the forest, the place where the elves, the air-elementals and the tree-spirits live. My motive during these excursions was primarily “recreational” or “poetic”; what I didn’t realize at the time was that these experiences, for all their seemingly harmless lyricism, were beginning to thin out the substance of my essential humanity, and open doors through which much darker forces would later gain entry. But my greatest triumph as a “magus” was as follows: In the late 70’s, a few years before becoming involved with the Sanctuary Movement, I had used various methods adapted from both Castaneda and the Order of the Golden Dawn to produce what I thought of as a “rain charm” during a serious California drought; I incorporated into it the Golden Dawn symbol for the Water Element. [NOTE: The Golden Dawn was the occult/neo-Pagan society to which the great Irish poet William Butler Yeats belonged, as well as the black magician Aliester Crowley.] The charm “worked” in the sense that, soon after I produced it, the water pipes in my apartment broke—and then, after I gave the charm away to a woman I knew in Berkeley, the pipes in her apartment broke! Through these experiments I learned both that magic is “real”, and that it is not worth pursuing. From my present standpoint I can only marvel at what God let me get away with, since I could have easily have lost my mind, my life, or my soul. As it was—undoubtedly due to this sort of extremely dangerous foolishness, coupled with my use of psychedelic drugs and my abuse of kundalini yoga, which I practiced with no guidance whatsoever—I contracted a life-long over-sensitivity to dark psychic forces, and learned that once you pass, knowingly or unknowingly, through the region of the demonic, your name goes into the Devil’s rolodex. On the positive side, I gained a certain understanding of the methods and agendas of the Powers of Darkness, and also of the efficacy of traditional methods of petitionary prayer and spiritual prophylaxis for protection against them. Nonetheless, I must seriously discourage anyone else from making the same mistakes I did. If you go to war and get a leg blown off by a land mine, that experience might eventually result in some real spiritual growth for you—nonetheless, for obvious reasons, I can’t really recommend it.

Another happening related to the notion of magic is also relevant here: Years earlier, after ingesting some peyote, I found myself hiking on a trail through the meadow of Laurel Dell on Mt. Tamalpias. After a time I came upon two teenage girls at a camp site. They had set up a loud gasoline generator to power their primitive 1970’s devices; the smell and the racket were ruining the natural ambience. I considered myself an environmental warrior in those days, an enemy of technology, so I crouched some distance away and stared at the generator, willing it to cease. A few moments later one of the girls walked over and switched it off. Then she turned to her companion and said: “Why did we do that?” I’m sure they never saw me. I had no conscious intent to control their actions, yet apparently that’s what happened.

What can we learn from this? Two useful lessons come to mind: 1) If you intend to use self-will to control the world around you, magically or otherwise, you will eventually find yourself violating the integrity and the freedom of other people. 2) No matter how much personal power you feel you are applying—and to make two teenage girls do something they don’t want to do obviously requires a formidable degree of personal power—the very notion that you possess such power is having a greater effect on you than any effect the power you think you possess could possibly have on anything else. The magician is hyper-conscious of the influence he believes he is exerting on the world, but largely unconscious of the greater influence that the invisible world—possibly the demonic world—is exerting on him in the same moment. Seriously, who wants to become a psychic bully whose swelling sense of his own power only hides the withering away of his moral fibre and spiritual virility? What greater weakness can there be than the attachment to power? If you are addicted to personal power, you are a slave to it—whereas if you truly are a slave to God, if you can say with absolute sincerity “not my will but Thine be done”, then you are free.

At Santa Venetia, having moved one or two steps away from magic and closer to prayer, I started experimenting with a type of visualization I developed called Strategic Insight Meditation, “trying it out” on members of the congregation. The idea was to form a question as an image, submit it to the angelic plane or “higher self”, and receive an answer in return, also as an image. The only real success I had with this technique came several years later when I was working for a homeless service agency; with the help of Strategic Insight I was able to line up a living situation for a homeless couple. The problem with practices like this, however, is that they give the illusion that intuiting the Will of God and acting on it can be carried on simply as a “technique”, a way of manipulating information, without reference to one’s total moral and spiritual state. You can’t distance large portions of yourself from piety, devotion and submission to God, by defining spiritual intuition as no more than a kind of psychic “search engine”, and expect not to run into serious problems; if you attempt this—and most especially if you are “successful”—you will have opened yourself to spiritual delusion.

Also during my time in Santa Venetia I began experimenting with prayer networking for the purpose of empowering the Sanctuary Movement. On one occasion a    n “informant” from El Salvador, under the sponsorship of the Reagan administration, was scheduled to testify before Congress about Russian involvement in the Salvadoran revolution; we in the movement were worried that this would be the prelude to large-scale U.S. intervention, not simply the kind of small-scale proxy war that was already going on. I responded by reaching out to the dozen or so branches of the Johrei Fellowship, a more or less New Age Japanese church whose central ministry was the channeling of a subtle healing power. The recipient sat across from the channeling minister, who then raised his or her hand, from which emanated—without physical contact—a subtle yet quite powerful psychospiritual energy; it was as if a cool wind of light were blowing through one’s atoms and molecules, flushing out dark clots and clouds of psychic impurity which, after being released from the subtle body, rose and disappeared into the sky. The Fellowship (which is still in existence) also channeled long-distance johrei (“divine light”) and forwarded prayer-intentions submitted by its members and fellow-travelers to the spiritual powers under whom they worked. So I wrote a letter to all the Johrei churches in the United States, asking them to pray not for any preconceived outcome to the upcoming Congressional hearings, but simply that the truth be served. The upshot was that the informant in question, contrary to all expectations, denied any Russian involvement in El Salvador. But the most interesting aspect of this exercise in “white magic” was the fact that the testimony took place before any of the prayer-requests I had sent could have been received and acted upon. Someone less “liminal” that I was at the time would simply have concluded that the prayers I had requested had had no real effect—and I certainly don’t blame anyone who accepts this as the most obvious and rational explanation. The lesson I drew from it, however, was an insight into the principle expressed in the Book of Isaiah, where God says: “Before they ask I will answer” (Isaiah 65:24). Spiritual causality is not limited by time; the influence of the First Cause does not arrive horizontally from the past, or even from the future, as in the case of Aristotle’s “final cause”—the notion that the ultimate goal of a particular action may be considered to be the actual cause of it—but rather descends vertically from Eternity. But if God answers prayers before they are formulated, what becomes of the “prayer of petition”? Doesn’t petitionary prayer lose all its function and meaning if the visible effect precedes the visible cause? Yes and no. If God knows “beforehand” what we will ask Him for, nothing prevents Him from answering prayers that we haven’t prayed yet, though of course we will never be able to prove the relationship between such prayer and its answer; in this case prayer of petition is transformed into prayer of thanksgiving. Furthermore, according to Sufi doctrine, we can only effectively petition God if He has commanded us to submit that petition, if He has said (in effect) “ask Me for something.” And if a particular outcome “was always going to happen anyway”, then the fact that someone prayed for that outcome was also always going to happen anyway; the prayer and its answer make up a single synthetic destiny. This principle is encapsulated in the prayer of the Sufi Bayazid Bistami, “O God, You know what I want”—the import of this being that if our petitions to God are actually reflections of His desire to grant those petitions, then the highest form of piety and submission to His Will is not to grasp after that desire by importuning Him, but to allow it to rest, undisturbed, within Him. In retrospect, I can now see that this attempt to apply spiritual force to political action was an important turning-point in my pilgrimage from the illusions of magic to the realities of submission to God, from “I will the good (or my idea of it) and call upon all spiritual powers to empower that will” to “not my will but Thine be done”.

In any case, for around two years in the mid-1980’s, a deep spiritual influence was moving through Santa Venetia Presbyterian Church, which was certainly felt beyond the boundaries of that congregation. The Holy Spirit was being poured out upon us, bringing together a powerful union of social action—rightly considered in Christian terms as a commitment to works of mercy—and God’s Grace expressed through love and fellowship. Add to this the high drama of opposition to the U.S. government, which would have earned many of us five years in Federal prison for conspiracy if the Feds had decided to move, and the result was a very potent mix indeed. Among other projects, we produced a video called “Through the Needle’s Eye” based on testimonies of Argentine woman refugees who has been tortured during Argentina’s Dirty Little War, which we presented in the context of similar events now taking place in Central America. I recited one of Jenny’s poems, written in sympathy and solidarity with the sufferings of the oppressed in El Salvador and elsewhere, and an American veteran of the Vietnam War formally apologized to the Argentine women for the actions of the U.S. government. We were told later that this video had helped other victims of torture find the courage to give their own testimonies. But for all the strength and truth of the Spirit that moved us, we remained without a vessel strong enough to contain that Spirit and apply it to the real heart of our spiritual lives. Many U.S. “progressive” Christians were being drawn to social action in those years. In one sense this was an overflow of the Christian charisma expressed through corporal works of mercy; in another, it was a way to stir up the dying embers of faith into a strong but temporary new blaze by seeking “relevancy”. In our own case, too much of the essence of the spiritual life was being lost in conflict with worldly conditions to allow for the deepening of our devotional and contemplative center. We were willing to struggle with the world in the name of God and make real sacrifices in the pursuit of our image of God’s justice, but we had little idea of the way, or the even need, to struggle with ourselves. Consequently the manifestation of the Spirit in and through us had a set limit to it; after that limit was passed, nothing was left for us but the outer darkness.

Various signs of the coming dusk began to appear. For one thing, it became clear to us that some of the various Salvadoran politicos we were working with were not being straight with us. On one occasion, during an event at the church, one young trickster, with narrow eyes and a sly smile, told us: “O no! There are no Communists fighting with the Salvadoran rebels! Rest assured (you stupid, gullible Norteamericano church people) that we are pure of that stain.” Satanist graffiti appeared above the church door. The building next door was purchased by the Da Free John organization and turned into his Marin County headquarters; busloads of hippy peons were shipped down from Clear Lake to work on the site. [NOTE: Da Free John was one of the ever-changing names of Franklin Jones, an American teacher in the Hindu yoga tradition with a background in the Psychedelic Revolution, a chela of (among others) Swami Mukhtananda—whose shaktipat I had once received—author of many highly intelligent and perceptive books, and a self-styled Avatar of God whose degree of realization apparently surpasses that of all the avatars, prophets, saints and gurus of the past; he is characterized by some as a cult-leader.] The mothers of the greater Santa Venetia community, whose “latchkey kids” attended a day care center on the church grounds, were up in arms when we voted to become a temporary homeless shelter. One of our congregants died by electrocution during an accident at work. Finally we realized that a couple of visitors to the church obviously thought they had walked in on some kind of cult meeting. We had definitely lost many of our personal boundaries due to the intensity of the group experience; had we become a cult? As our light faded, the Presbytery of the Redwoods, the church’s parent body, suddenly was no longer willing to indulge the antics of a “mission” church that was not pulling its own weight in financial terms. So things changed. We slowly drifted apart. Ultimately the church became host to a congregation of Korean Presbyterians.

With the end of Santa Venetia Presbyterian Church as we had known it, our identification with the Liberation Theology movement also ended. There is no question in my mind that without the large-scale involvement North American churches in the opposition to U.S. intervention in Central America, we would have seen a much greater bloodbath in that region, accompanied by a destabilization of much of the western hemisphere, most likely including the incursion of the Central American death-squads into the United States itself. And Liberation Theology, with its “option for the poor”, did base itself partly on the Gospel call for Christians to perform corporal works of mercy. Nonetheless a true marriage of Christianity and Marxism—that is, of theistic spirituality and atheistic materialism—is not a viable possibility in either theological or socio-historical terms. No matter how idealistically it might be pursued, such a proposal is contradictory, ill-conceived, and dishonest at the root. And the fact is, much of the spiritual potential of Christianity, and especially of the Catholic Church, was spent in the more or less successful attempt to block U.S. intervention in Central America. Real material good was done in the dimension of time; much spiritual good was lost in the dimension of eternity. And the fact is that the Catholic Church, after the rejection of its traditional dogma, the deconstruction of the sacramental order, the pedophilia scandal which resulted in the bankruptcy of whole archdioceses, the closure of many churches and the departure of millions of the faithful, no longer possesses the kind of social influence and moral authority that it spent so recklessly on helping the world in the 1980’s.

Elements of the U.S. Catholic Church have retained, even to this day, their commitment to helping Latin American immigrants illegally cross the border from Mexico to the United States that they embraced during the Sanctuary Movement. However, while some refugees from the south are still be fleeing political oppression, they are now accompanied by plenty of members of Mexican drug cartels and other criminal and/or terrorist organizations. And where, exactly, is the line between helping refugees and enabling human traffickers? According to National Public Radio—not a news-source where you’d expect to run into the kind of anti-immigrant sentiment usually identified with conservative Republicans—the immigration from El Salvador to the United States that began in the 1980’s has led to a vast increase in the power of the Salvadoran drug gangs. Salvadorans operating in the relative freedom of the U.S. have been able to build narcotics-trafficking networks much more easily than they could have in their native country, after which these networks are simply exported back to El Salvador. So times change. What is mercy and justice in one era can unexpectedly become cruelty and injustice in another. Politics is the art of the ephemeral.

At one point during our years with the Sanctuary Movement, an interesting and quite moving document was circulated, a statement by a woman guerrilla fighter somewhere in Latin America. She called upon the monastics of the Catholic Church not to abandon their contemplative vocation in order to become activists and revolutionaries (and, I would add, social workers), but rather to continue to man the post where God had stationed them. Unfortunately, from the standpoint of 2017, I can only conclude that, at least in terms of its “official” ideology, the Church—except for a tiny remnant of the traditional faithful—has remained largely deaf to her plea.

***

I had now reached a point in my activist career where I was subject to the common disease of disappointed idealism, or (in my case) “Leftist burnout.” We had discovered that the Salvadoran revolutionaries were not saints, that there was plenty of infighting among the various factions, and that even just and successful revolutions were often not able to maintain their earlier idealism—to say the least. I had seen several of my contemporaries, who had come to the same point, flip precipitously to the Right, becoming followers of William Buckley, etc. I vowed not to take that route—and so, rather than moving to the Right, I consciously decided to go up instead, to opt for subtler and more “spiritual” forms of activism.

Roughly contemporaneous with the Sanctuary Movement was the Anti-Nuclear Movement, in which poet Allen Ginsberg played an important role; the central and most successful element of that movement was the Nuclear Freeze campaign. In 1967 Ginsberg had been involved in a mass peace demonstration, along with 70,000 peace activists and acid-heads, which included an effort to levitate the Pentagon by the application of group psychic force. (Was anybody really serious about this possibility? And did it really matter?) Next year in ’68 he was leading troops of Om-ing demonstrators at the Democratic Convention in Chicago, a scene I made as well. I was there to hear the old 30’s radical haranguing the hippy and yippy (Youth Independent Party) crowds, nearly in tears, to the effect that “this is the 30’s all over again!”; to smell the tear gas and see the jeeps with their 50-calibre machine guns; to watch as the saintly hippy girl placed flowers in the rifle-barrels of the National Guard. In the late 70’s and into the 80’s, Ginsberg was a leader in the Anti-Nuclear Movement, in which capacity he composed a powerful poem entitled “Plutonean Ode” where he cursed the highly radioactive, artificial element plutonium, much as prohibitionist Carrie Nation in earlier years had cursed the Demon Rum. All these efforts well exemplified the “magical populism” for which the hippies were known.

By the Late 80’s, much of the impetus of the hippy magical populism was being carried on, in altered form, by the New Age Movement, whose style was less confrontational and who tended to act more through “psychic networks” of stay-at-homes than mass demonstrations, though they certainly had plenty of public events, largely in “workshop” form. The New Agers were adept at national and even global networking, and this at a time when the internet was still in its infancy.

So Jenny and I decided to take a two-year “tour-of-duty” through the New Age, partly as believers and partly as observers; I for one wanted to find out what (if anything) was left of the influence of the Spiritual Revolution of the 60’s. And since we entered more-or-less as activists, or with an activist background, it was natural for us to become involved with the “psychic peace movement”, as part of the collective oscillation of the “alternative” sector of the Baby Boom between the poles of mysticism and politics. Were we really exploring the potential of organized mass “consciousness” to change material conditions? Or were we just taking a well-earned vacation from realpolitic in a fantasy-cruise to Never-Never Land?

The first major manifestation of the psychic peace movement was the fabled Harmonic Convergence. Visionary artist José Arguëlles, in his book The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology, had come up with his own interpretation of the prophesies supposedly to be found in the Mayan calendar, whose various cycles-within-cycles all ended, and began again, on August 16th and 17th, 1987. This notion was right in line with one of the major New Age myths, that of the impending “paradigm shift.” As the likelihood that we could actually construct a new society and a new world through creative labor continued to fade, the myth that everything was simply going to change over-night by a kind of collective miracle—often compared to the instantaneous “quantum leap” of an electron from one “shell” or energy-level of an atom to another—began to take hold. In line with this myth, all sorts of spooks, channeled entities and “ascended masters” appeared, doing their best to convince us that “it’s always darkest before the dawn” and that mass spiritual and social change for the better was right around the corner. The convergence of all the cycles of the Mayan Calendar was thus perfectly designed (so to speak) to dovetail with this notion of a paradigm shift.

Harmonic Convergence was the first and probably the last international folk-event—though, as we shall see, it was not as spontaneous an expression of the global counterculture as we had been led to believe. Hippy/New Age missionaries fanned out across the globe, informing not only the Euro-American New Age counterculture, but North American Indians, British Pagans, Russian Theosophists and Shamans, Australian Aborigines, even the Mayans themselves that a big spiritual opportunity was on the horizon. If we all pooled our psychic energy and spiritual intent, according to whatever spiritual tradition or ritual form or magical technology we happened to be following at the time, together we could save the world, usher in a New Age for humanity. As the Big Days approached, my wife and I made a connection with an organization of New Age yuppies called Global Family, in one of whose offices we first encountered the wonder of networked personal computers, and were informed that these computers were actually talking to other computers in Russia—right now! This led me to conclude in later years that Harmonic Convergence and similar events provided a kind of psychic template for the spread of the internet, and that the New Age movement actually functioned as a tender-minded advance guard for the globalization process and the push for One World Government. Certainly there was, and is, a lot of One World idealism in the New Age, as well as a wide cross-pollination between various large, established, well-funded New Age/Interfaith organizations, such as Esalen Institute, Share International and the World Parliament of Religions, and the think-tanks of the globalist elites. New Age teacher Barbara Marx Hubbard, for example—heir to the Yo-Yo fortune (yes, you heard me correctly) and past honors graduate in political science from the Sorbonne—went on to become one of the directors of the World Future Society along with Robert McNamara (formerly the U.S. Secretary of Defense and president of the World Bank), Maurice Strong (who had been secretary general of the UN Conference on Environment and Development), and scholars from Georgetown University, George Washington University, and the University of Maryland. Most of us who had entered the New Age from the hippy counterculture simply took leaders like Hubbard as “our people”; we almost never asked ourselves, or anybody else, what powerful established interests might have sent leaders like her to lead us, and exactly what destination they might be leading us to.

On August 16 & 17, 1987 I found myself leading a ceremonial circle on Mt. Tamalpais, in Marin County, California; it was my first and last appearance as a “New Age teacher”. A little before the Convergence I had met and talked with José Arguëlles, who told me something appropriately flattering—appropriate for recruitment, that is—and in any case the event itself seemed to go off well, without any obvious catastrophies, either physical or psychic. And yet….

Concurrently with my interest in the New Age I had begun to become seriously involved in what came to be called “group dreamwork”, under the influence of the Castaneda books, the “Seth” material channeled by spirit medium Jane Roberts, and the various studies of dream incubation and lucid dreaming that were being carried on in the scientific community, by Stanford University’s Stephen LeBerge and other serious investigators. To Sigmund Freud the term dreamwork denoted the process through which the psyche manufactures dreams. The New Age, however, to whom the term “light workers” was familiar (we of the spiritual avant garde, laboring to effect the great Paradigm Shift, were all “light workers”), used the term “dreamwork” to describe the activities of those involved not only in dream interpretation, but also in dream incubation, lucid dreaming, and the notion of applying insights and powers derived from dreams to the transformation material conditions. Here we can see, in this radical re-definition of the word “work”, how one element of the New Age ethos was a kind of sublimated, volatilized, psychologized Marxism; probably as good an example as any of this tendency was Theosophical Society spinoff Benjamin Crème.

According to the worldview of Shamanism, it is the Shaman’s role to heal whatever disease and social disharmony may affect his tribe, as well as finding game, controlling the weather, carrying out criminal investigations, and protecting the tribe from attack by outside forces, human or otherwise. The Shaman would go into an altered state of consciousness—often after some rigorous ordeal—discover the nature of the problem and the proper cure for it, either in vision or in the dream-state, then return to “consensus reality” to deliver his message, and in some cases organize the tribe to conduct the proper rituals to rebalance the cosmic forces and dispel the menace.

Looked at from this perspective, Harmonic Convergence was a kind of mass Shamanic ritual for the healing of the Earth. Consequently it was only natural that some, including myself, would take it as a collective initiation into benign form of Shamanism for the purpose of dealing with global problems. Shortly after the Convergence I put out a call, through the New Age networks, for accounts of any significant dreams the people participating had dreamed on August 16 & 17, 1987, or shortly after. I received quite a few dream descriptions, from North America and several other parts of the world, and bound them into a still-unpublished manuscript I titled The Harmonic Convergence Book of Dreams. A comparison of the symbols to be found in these dreams demonstrated, at the very least, the reality of the “group mind”. For example, two symbols which appeared in the dreams of several people from widely different locales were the Horse and the Octahedron—images which had not been specifically emphasized in the literature leading up to the Convergence. Next, I organized a short-lived dream network called Gate of Horn, where the dreamers would do their best to incubate dreams on the dark of the Moon every month in an attempt to find solutions to the particular global menace that month’s dreamwork was focused on. (In the mythology of ancient Egypt, false dreams were supposed to come through the Gate of Ivory, true ones through the Gate of Horn.) Nothing much came of this attempt, and the group soon disbanded.

And Harmonic Convergence was not the last international New Age peace event. The year after the Convergence a mass peace-prayer event took place, the International Day of Peace; it was conceived and organized by Avon Mattison and her seminal organization, Pathways to Peace. I participated in this event as well, which became a yearly happening, and through my past connection with the Presbyterians I was able to introduce a resolution in support of the International Day of Peace to the General Assembly of the United Presbyteran Church. It passed—though from my present standpoint I cannot imagine a more useless “political” achievement.

Last but not least, with the help of Global Family and Dr. Stanley Krippner of the Saybrook Institute, I organized something called The U.S-Soviet Dream Bridge. Global Family, along with other New Age organizations, had become involved with “citizen diplomacy” with the Soviet Union, something Mikhail Gorbachev and glasnost had made possible for the first time. New Age citizen diplomats from the United States were connecting with their Russian counterparts, many of whom, including various Shamans and Theosophists, had been suppressed by the Soviet regime but were now able to practice openly. The idea of the Dream Bridge was for American and Russian dreamers to incubate dreams on the same night, so as to establish (for what good reason I never really asked myself) a psychic connection between our two nations. The only result that in any way fit the bill was the image of a rustic cabin which appeared to both an American dreamer and a Russian one—and on this firm and rock-solid foundation we would proceed to built (wouldn’t we?) the everlasting temple of world peace.

Then—suddenly, providentially—I stopped short and said to myself: “Charles, what the hell have you been up to?” I realized that I had gone too far in too many unknown directions, into a world without guides or signposts, but not without powerful psychic influences pushing their own agendas, most of which I was probably unconscious of. So at that point I turned 180 degrees, and made for the world of traditional esoteric spirituality with all deliberate speed—specifically, the province of Islamic Sufism, known in Arabic as tasawwuf. No more spiritual freelancing for me, no more devising my own meditations, no more inventing my own religions. It all had to end some time, so it was best to end it right now.

But why Sufism? The true and sufficient answer is, “because God willed it”. It is nonetheless possible, and not entirely irrelevant, to say something about the interlocking contexts in which that Will began to appear.

To begin with, it was obvious to me that the New Age impetus had peaked. At a gathering at the home of Barbara Marx Hubbard in Mill Valley shortly after the Convergence, I saw the same stunned “what now?” look on every face. Had we shifted the paradigm? Had we brought in the New Age? Do I feel any different? Do you? Did anything really happen at all? In addition, certain unsettling signs began to appear in the area of dreamwork I was exploring. One of the world-class dreamers I had become involved with was Barbara Shor, who was at the cutting edge of self-directed research into the practice of group dreaming. She had mentally “constructed” a site in the Imaginal Plane that she called The Octagonal Room; she and her fellow dreamers would agree to meet there on certain nights. Often they actually did see each other, experienced similar environments, exchanged words, and clearly remembered their experiences upon awakening. In other words, Barbara and her compatriots had gone a long way toward experimentally establishing the objective reality of the Psychic or Imaginal Plane, just as I had done—in a much less striking way—in the Harmonic Convergence Book of Dreams and the U.S.-Soviet Dream Bridge. I’m very glad that I didn’t participate in any of her experiments, however, seeing that a number of members of the dream group became involved in serious accidents or developed unexpected physical ailments, as if their radical excursions into the common landscape of dreams had somehow drained their essential life energy. Barbara Shor herself, not too long after the Octagonal Room experiments, contracted a rare blood disorder, of which she eventually died. So the need for a stable spiritual path and some true and reliable guidance was impressed upon me in no uncertain terms.

Before the Convergence and in preparation for it, I had attended a “Neo-Shamanic” workshop taught by one Richard Dobson, who had a background in Sufism, specifically the Nimatullahi Order based in Iran. When I met him he was apparently on the path from Sufism to Shamanism (though he might have been practicing both concurrently for some time), whereas I was traveling in the other direction, though I didn’t know it yet. Also, soon after we departed from Santa Venetia, my wife and I began attending the Dances of Universal Peace, founded by Samuel Lewis, affectionately known as “Sufi Sam”, who had grown up in Fairfax, near my home town of San Rafael. Samuel Lewis, whose style was fairly loose and heterodox, was a kind of bridge figure between the hippies and the world of real Sufism, in the days before the more orthodox Sufi groups arrived in the States. Nonetheless he possessed a valid initiation from the Chishti Order. As in the case of Carlos Castaneda, Lewis was first introduced to me by my poetic mentor Lew Welch, who met him when Sam enrolled in Lew’s poetry class at the U.C. Extension in San Francisco. I experienced The Dances of Universal Peace, more commonly known simply as “Sufi Dancing”, as a harmless, benign and uplifting form of devotion to God, though they seemed to have little in common with Sufism and Islam as I later came to know them. They helped us heal the emotional wounds we had suffered when Santa Venetia Presbyterian Church descended into darkness.

But an infinitely more important influence was the discovery, by my wife Jenny, of the Traditionalist/Perennialist School and the books of Frithjof Schuon.

For most of our married life, Jenny has been the first to catch wind of major new developments; for example, she was the one who first “discovered” the movement in solidarity with the revolutions of Central America. Previously she had found the books of Marie-Louise Von Franz, probably the most interesting of the Jungians, whose most important work was in the area of the psychological exegesis of fairy tales, which she also related to dream interpretation. Next Jenny discovered the intriguing books of “Neo-Sufi” Idries Shah, collector (and also part author?) of the corpus of the humorous yet perceptive Nasruddin stories, probably best described as Muslim folk tales. Most of Shah’s output was in the form of Sufi “teaching stories”, similar in style to the tales of the Hasidim. He also produced several very insightful books on the collective psychology of human self-deception, as well as an overview of the Sufi tradition—valuable though not without a few worrisome errors—that was praised by Robert Graves. Reading Shah’s books was like eating popcorn; you could go through a whole bag of them in no time. Unfortunately, he was also one of those so-called Sufis who claim that Sufism can be separated from Islam, which is like believing that the Franciscan Order of monks could become a religion of its own, outside Catholicism—though I don’t mean to imply that something that crazy couldn’t actually happen, given the craziness of the times and the ongoing dissolution of the Roman Catholic Church.

The books of Frithjof Schuon, however, were on an entirely different level. His works on traditional metaphysics and comparative religion raised the entire discourse on spiritual subjects to a higher intellectual level. Through Schuon we discovered the other writers of the Traditionalist or Perennialist School, including René Guénon, Ananda Coomaraswamy, Julius Evola, Titus Burckhardt, Marco Pallis, Martin Lings, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Whitall Perry, Charles LeGai Eaton and quite a few others.

Schuon was a Muslim and a Sufi, but he is most often identified with the principle he called The Transcendent Unity of Religions, which holds that God has sent more than one valid revelation to humanity, that all these revelations or wisdom traditions—Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Taoism, as well as such “First Nations” spiritualities as the Native American Sun Dance—are speaking, from their widely-differing points of departure, about the same Transcendent Principle (God to the Christians, Allah to the Muslims etc.), and each one of them—if it remains intact—provides a complete Path of Return to that Principle. Certain verses of the Qur’an say essentially the same thing. Nonetheless the differences between the religions are also necessary and providential, since they were designed by God to operate within different cultural frameworks and appeal to different human types. Consequently to promiscuously mix the religions—for example, by attempting to practice more than one religion at the same time—was wrong-headed and destructive, and unnecessary as well, given that, in Schuon’s words, “each religion contains all the religions, because the Truth is One”.

I remember an occasion, after Jenny had begun reading Schuon’s books, when we were sitting in our car on the grounds of the San Francisco Theological Seminary in Ross, California. I was in the process of spouting New Age platitudes, going on about the paradigm shift and the imminent appearance of a new revelation, when Jenny stopped me cold: “No!” she said. “There will be no paradigm shift. Islam was the last revelation.”

Something within me really heard her in that moment—and, as William Blake put it, “the truth cannot be told so as to be understood, and not be believed.” So I immersed myself in the books of Frithjof Schuon, his predecessors and his colleagues; they produced a true and complete metanoia in my spiritual outlook. From René Guénon, often called the “founder” of the Traditionalist School, I not only learned more about his own version of the Transcendent Unity of Religions, as well as the Primordial Tradition from which the divine revelations ultimately branched, but also about the difference between true and false religion, between Tradition and Counter-Tradition. Guénon had been raised a Catholic as I had; largely between the World Wars he immersed himself in every form of occultism and pseudo-religion he could find, just as I had done (though not so extensively) in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s—Theosophy, Spiritualism, Martinism, the occultism of Eliphas Levi, Neo-Gnosticism—from which he emerged with the unshakable conviction that these various “alternative” religions were nothing less than the many manifestations of the Powers of Darkness, which together constituted what he called the “Counter-Initiation”. At the same time he was studying and seeking initiation into and writing books about what he came to consider the true and valid wisdom-traditions and spiritual Ways: the Hindu Vedanta, Taoism, Islamic Sufism. He hoped to re-awaken the Catholic Church to its own metaphysical and esoteric traditions through an understanding of the eastern religions where traditional metaphysics and esoterism were more intact—he dialogued for a time with Catholic Neo-Thomist philosopher Jacques Maritain—but ultimately he despaired of this hope, converted to Islam, accepted initiation into a Sufi order, and left Europe for Egypt, never to return.

All this gave me quite a bit to chew on. If anybody had ever mixed religions, it was certainly me. And without a doubt I had been deeply involved in spiritualities that were clearly counter-initiatory according to Guénon’s criteria. Nonetheless I had always maintained my interest in the traditional revelations, side-by-side with the more suspect beliefs and influences of hippy and New Age spirituality. But somewhere, in my heart of hearts, I had given the traditional revelations precedence. My pre-Vatican II Catholic education had taught me that there is such a thing as a science of metaphysics, and given me an instinctive feel for what a religion is, a revelation sent by God to man; both these lessons were of great help when I began my investigation of the non-Christian religions while still in my teens. But it was not until I plunged into the writings of the Traditionalist School that I realized that the non-traditional spiritualities were not simply of lesser value than the traditional religions, but were in many cases actually opposed to them—sometimes naively and unconsciously, sometimes consciously, actively, and with a ruthless and openly-declared determination to sweep them off the face of the earth. This realization ultimately led me to write what some have called my magnum opus, The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age, which came out in 2001. In that book, besides providing a comparative eschatology based on the end-time prophesies of eight religious traditions—in a deliberate attempt to “update” René Guénon’s prophetic masterpiece The Reign of Quantity and the Signs of the Times—I also provided a detailed refutation, according to the principles of traditional metaphysics, of a number of New Age belief-systems, most of which I myself had accepted at one time. These included the “sorcery” of Carlos Castaneda, the channeled “Seth” material of Jane Roberts, and A Course in Miracles. In the process of composing The System of Antichrist, I “wrote myself out” of both the hippy counter-culture and the New Age.

If I had been “ripe” for a serious commitment to the spiritual Path in the 60’s, I might have gone for some form of hippified Hindu yoga—for which one of the textbooks would certainly have been Be Here Now by Ram Dass (Richard Alpert), whose lectures I had attended in both the U.S. and Canada—or possibly the kundalini yoga of Sikh guru Yogi Bhajan, whom I met on one occasion. If I had ripened in the 70’s my choice would likely have been Tibetan Buddhism, particularly the brand brought to the west by Chögyam Trungpa, a tulku (recognized incarnation of an earlier teacher) of the Kagyu Lineage. Trungpa appealed to many of those in both the hippy and the Beat generations who were looking for ways to “clean up their act” after the excesses of the 60’s. Once again it was Allen Ginsberg who led the migration of seekers from two generations of American Bohemia toward Tibetan Buddhism and the Vajrayana. I myself was more or less on the edge of this movement. I never visited Trungpa’s main headquarters, the Naropa Institute (now University) in Boulder, Colorado, but I did attend a meditation retreat with him at The Tail of the Tiger in the foothills of the Rockies. Trungpa’s books exhibited a rare mix of intelligence, accessibility and relevance to the times. His teaching style blended the traditional Vajrayana with what I can only call a reckless degree of openness to the U.S. counterculture. I view Trungpa as a kind of “berserker” who exposed himself to many dangers as he plunged into the fading world of the “Spiritual Revolution” of the hippies so as to bring the Vajrayana to the west, whatever the cost might be to himself personally. And that cost was pretty steep. At one point, during a drunken party, he sent his “vajra guards” to seize and strip poet W.S. Merwin and his fiancée. This event precipitated what later came to be called The Great Naropa Poetry Wars (which is also the title of a book about the incident by Tom Clark). Poet Ed Sanders, of the New York rock band the Fugs, mounted an investigation into the incident—which Trungpa immediately co-opted by offering to let him teach a course at Naropa on “Investigative Poetics”. Sanders took him up on his offer. I myself played a brief and peripheral role in the Poetry Wars through an epistolary dialogue with Allen Ginsberg, who adopted the “pro-Trungpa” position vis-à-vis my “anti-Trungpa” stance. Ultimately Chögyam Trungpa’s alcoholism got the better of him; he ended up dying of cirrhosis of the liver.

The fact is, however, that I became ripe for a serious commitment to the spiritual Path only in the 1980’s—the decade when, mostly through the work of Robert Bly and Coleman Barks, the Sufi teacher Jalalluddin Rumi emerged as the most popular poet in the English-speaking world, just as more-or-less traditional Islamic Sufism was becoming established in the West. Seen from this point-of-view, my choice of Sufism as a spiritual path was little more than a function of its availability and my readiness.

But that’s neither the whole story nor the real story. When I was maybe six years old, I had my first “lucid” dream, which featured a pair of North African marabouts or Sufis in white jellabas, their faces black. This dream was so powerful that whenever my life has gone through a major change I’ve returned to it, each time seeing new aspects to its symbolism, which continues to be relevant and enlightening no matter what point-of-view I see it from. So the truth is, I was destined for Sufism from the beginning.

My wife and I joined the Nimatullahi Sufi Order under Dr. Javad Nurbakhsh in 1988,  though she moved on a few years later. As for myself, I had had enough of flitting from flower to flower in the spiritual life; now I wanted the Hive. So I said to myself: “Stop, choose one path, stay with it, and sink or swim.” So I sat in the Nimatullahi circle for twenty years, rarely saying more than a few words, and concentrating on two themes: Remember God and forget yourself, and put God’s will above your own will—even your will to see Him and be united with Him. By this method I allowed Him to slowly recollect my scattered psyche, disordered by years of alcohol and drug use, psychic experimentation and mis-guided spiritual aspiration. [NOTE “Forget yourself” does not mean “ignore the actions and agendas of your nafs, your lower self”; it means “stop working to build and maintain your identity, and stop making claims.”] Before the Nimatullahis I had become what anyone today would recognize as an alcoholic—but as soon as I stepped for the first time into the Nimatullahi khaniqa (Sufi lodge) in San Francisco, I never took another drink. I smoked marijuana four or five times after that, but after a few years it too disappeared from my life.

The central teachings and practices of the Nimatullahis were those of classic Islamic tasawwuf; one of the reasons I had chosen them was that they were on Seyyed Hossein Nasr’s list of traditional Sufi orders. However, they tended to identify “Islam” with the exoteric aspect of religion and “Sufism” with the esoteric aspect, but in such a way that its intrinsic relationship to exoteric Islam, its identity as Islam’s inner spiritual core, remained uncertain. The Iranian Revolution had been traumatic for the Sufis of Iran, particularly those who had accepted a degree of patronage from the Shah—as Dr. Nurbakhsh might have done, at least according to certain indications. The Sufi orders have suffered persecution under the Iranian Revolutionary government; the fact that the Nimatullahis maintain khaniqas in the Western nations has undoubtedly placed them under a certain amount of suspicion. And it is true that the Islamic character of the Order slowly faded during the years I was connected with them; for one thing, the Muslim daily prayer (salat in Arabic, namaz in Persian) was gradually discontinued, though it remained “optional” for the dervishes (Sufis) in their own homes. Nonetheless the Order maintained much of the structure and ambience of traditional Persian Sufism. While I was sitting with the Nimatullahis, it was as if I were living through the long, golden sundown of a profound and ancient spirituality. I have no doubt that Dr. Nurbakhsh had attained a very high spiritual station—but as the connection of the Nimatullahi Order with Islam and its Prophet continued to weaken, I had the impression that it was becoming less and less possible for the dervishes to derive real benefit from the Master’s spiritual attainments. It felt to me as if we were attempting to draw spiritual light from his individual person rather than his transcendent function. And since it is impossible to really participate in the spiritual destiny of another, this left me with a kind of “so near yet so far” feeling, though I have no way of knowing whether anyone else felt that way. People came, stayed, left, but their reasons for moving on were never shared and never discussed.

Concurrently with my connection to the Nimatullahis I extensively explored the Traditionalist or Perennialist School; in the decade of the 90’s my wife and I immersed ourselves In that world. Jenny accepted initiation in Schuon’s Maryamiyya Tariqa through Schuon’s muqaddam (representative), Dr. Seyyed Hossein Nasr, though I remained with the Nimatullahis. Later, with Schuon’s blessing, Jenny converted to Eastern Orthodox Christianity. We met and became friends with Prof. Huston Smith, a true “gentleman and a scholar”, who was also connected with the Maryamiyya, We used to meet at his home for Chinese takeout and delightful informal discussions of spiritual themes; I would drive him to his lectures from time to time, and  man the book table. We visited Dr. Nasr in Washington D.C., and also became acquainted with Christian Perennialists Alvin Moore, Jr., who was Eastern Orthodox, and Dr. Rama Coomaraswamy. Rama, who had been Mother Theresa’s cardiologist, was a sede vaccantist Catholic and the closest thing to an informal spiritual guide that Jenny and I had ever known. He was the son of Ananda Kentish Coomaraswamy, who is sometimes considered, along with René Guénon, to be co-founder of the Traditionalist School. In his later years he gave up his practice as a surgeon due to ill health, and retrained both as a psychiatrist and as a traditional Catholic priest. In the latter capacity he became an exorcist in the New York area and a colleague of Fr. Malachi Martin, with whom I corresponded briefly. It’s my belief that Rama Coomaraswamy was something on the order of an intrinsic exorcist. Though burdened with ill health and his struggle to preserve what remained of the Catholic Church, and far from what we would think of as a “charismatic” personality, there was a powerful spiritual light coming out of him.

During this time, through my wife’s influence, I was drawn into the outer circles of Russian Orthodox Spirituality in the Bay Area, though I was careful to maintain my Sufi Muslim practices and connections. Huston Smith introduced us to James Cutsinger, Eastern Orthodox Perennialist and one of Frithjof Schuon’s “Christian muqaddams”. Jenny discovered the books of Fr. Seraphim Rose, who had been Alan Watts’ secretary in the pre-hippy era. Later he converted to Orthodoxy and was ordained a priest under the influence of the great latter-day Orthodox saint, John Maximovitch of Shanghai and San Francisco, who was Archbishop of San Francisco for the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia, founded by pious White Russian emmigrés after the Communist takeover. St. John Maximovitch was a theologian, a hierarch and a “fool for Christ”—roughly equivalent to the malamatiyya in the Sufi world, the “people of blame”, who engage in “unorthodox” behavior so as to mortify their social vanity and that of their followers. But he was, above all, a great wonderworker, known for his many miracles of healing, clairvoyance etc., both during his life and through his intercession from the next world after his death. His relics are presently in repose in the Cathedral of the Holy Virgin Joy of All Who Sorrow on Geary Street, which some have described as “the most sacred site in North America.” The spiritual energy of the place is truly formidable; the glass coffin housing his naturally-mummified remains is like a gate to Paradise.

Under St. John Maximovitch’s patronage, Seraphim Rose and others founded the Christ the Savior Brotherhood, which acted as a kind of bridge between Orthodox Christianity and the hippy Spiritual Revolution, providing the young people of that world with an alternative to the promiscuous religiosity of the counterculture. On one occasion we visited their monastery at Plátina in the Northern California Coast Range, where Fr. Seraphim is buried. Related to the Christ the Savior Brotherhood is the St. Herman of Alaska Brotherhood which continues to publish Seraphim Rose’s writings. His books, which show the influence of René Guénon—especially Fr. Seraphim’s sections on social criticism—are of great value. My favorite is The Soul After Death, in which he makes a clear distinction between such things as “near-death experiences” and the “thanatology” of writers like Elizabeth Kübler-Ross on the one hand, and traditional Orthodox teachings on the nature and significance of death on the other. According to Fr. Seraphim, the pop thanatology of the New Age may have some insight into the initial separation of soul and body, but it is completely ignorant of, and consequently tends to deny, the next and most crucial stage of the death process: the judgment of the soul by God.

Under the influence of the Traditionalists, of Seraphim Rose (to a degree) and of Islamic Sufism, I began to churn out books on traditional metaphysics, comparative religion, comparative eschatology, UFOlogy (one of Fr. Seraphim’s areas of research), demonology, the metaphysical exegesis of mythopoesis, and spiritual psychology, from 2001 till the present day. I did what I could to update Guénon’s critique of false spiritualities, and apply Schuon’s doctrines to various areas he neglected, or wasn’t particularly interested in, including traditional folk ballads (though Ananda Coomaraswamy had apparently planned to write a book on that subject) and the western romantic tradition. The Traditionalist/Perennialist world was rich with intellectual stimulation and went a long way toward helping me purify my soul, on the intellectual level at least, from the false notions I had embraced in my years with the hippy counterculture and the New Age. This is not to say that Perennialism didn’t have certain problems of its own. Frithjof Schuon for one, like so many “gurus”, Catholic priests and Evangelical Protestants in the late 20th century, was hit with major sexual scandals, though nothing was ever proved against him. We never met Schuon in person, though we visited his group in Bloomington, Indiana a number of times after his death in 1998.

Despite the scandals and the reports of various disgruntled followers from the Schuon world we encountered over the years, I would certainly recommend that anyone who is serious about the spiritual Path, unless he or she has already embraced an entirely congenial version of it, should read the profound works of the Traditionalists. As for myself, I feel that I have absorbed from them all I was destined to absorb, which is why I now consider myself a “graduate” of the Traditionalist School. But though I call myself a graduate, and am now concentrating almost exclusively upon Islam and the Sufi path, still, I haven’t thrown away my diploma. For some spiritual temperaments, the Traditionalists/Perennialists are the best possible introduction to comparative religion and traditional metaphysics. Like virtually no-one else in the modern world, they have enunciated certain necessary principles relating to religion, its source in God, and its relationship both to the metaphysical order and to human society and history. I believe that a knowledge of these principles is indispensible if we are to correctly orient ourselves to the spiritual quality of our time: a time of enforced religious pluralism, of the weakening, adulteration and perversion of the ancient Divine revelations and wisdom traditions, as well as of the availability of unexpected channels of Grace—the sort of Grace that our apocalyptic times require, and that God has therefore mercifully provided.

That said, we also need to face the unfortunate fact that principle of the Transcendent Unity of Religions, though I accept it as entirely true, is highly susceptible to misinterpretation and inversion. These all-too-common distortions have tended to take three main forms:

  1.  The notion that the Transcendent Unity of Religions is a religion in itself, that it represents a new divine revelation. Frithjof Schuon and others rejected this idea, yet it sometimes re-asserts itself on the sly when no one is looking. This is the point at which Perennialism is in danger of being adulterated with various New Age doctrines.
  2. The idea that an understanding of the Transcendent Unity of Religions represents the highest station of esoteric metaphysical insight and mystical realization, higher than anything available to those who accept the validity of only a single religion. It is uncertain whether or not Schuon believed this, though his notions of “quintessential esoterism” and “plenary esoterism” suggest that he might have.
  3. The tendency of the doctrine of the Transcendent Unity of Religion to appeal to those globalist elites who wish to crown their One World Society with a One World Religion. In my book The System of Antichrist: Truth and Falsehood in Postmodernism and the New Age I expressed the opinion that Antichrist—the one Muslims call al-Dajjal, the Deceiver—will emerge from the conflict between globalism and the various violent “tribalist” reactions against it. Given the fact that the established Interfaith Movement, where much of the groundwork for a One World Religion is being prepared, is extensively funded and influenced by the globalist elites, the readiness of certain present-day Perennialist figures to embrace “worldly ecumenism”—something that Schuon and his colleagues flatly rejected—is worrisome, to say the least.

At this point the reader might ask: “If the Transcendent Unity of Religions is so problematic, why don’t you just forget about ‘comparative religion’ and concentrate on Islam as the true religion sent by God?” I have four good reasons for not taking that course. First, my wife is a Christian. Secondly, we can all see, in these formidable times, how the blindness, the hatred and the violence that spring from militant religious exclusivism produce inhuman agendas which are so destructive that they undermine even the religions in whose name they are carried out. Thirdly, I’ve come to know what saints are, and have seen that religions other than Islam are capable of producing them. Saints are the proof. Fourth and last, the Transcendent Unity of Religions is confirmed by the following verses from the Holy Qur’an:

He has revealed unto you (Muhammad) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel. (3:3)

 

Say (O Muhammad): ‘O people of the Scripture: Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but God, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides God.’ (3:64)

 

And do not dispute with the followers of the Book except by what is best, except those of them who act unjustly, and say: We believe in that which has been revealed to us and revealed to you, and our God and your God is One, and to Him do we submit. (29:46)

 

Verily! Those who believe and those who are Jews and Christians, and Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last Day and does righteous good deeds shall have their reward with their Lord, on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve. (2:62)

***

According to the famous proverb of William Blake, “If the Fool would persist in his folly he would become wise”. I would only add: “If he survives.” After finding the Traditionalist School and the Sufi way, I felt myself well out of the world of political activism. The “lesser jihad” against the evil of the world will never be won, but the “greater jihad”—the war against the nafs, the conscious/unconscious ego, seat of the passions—God willing can be won.

When you’re out of the game, you can reflect on the game. When you no longer identify with a particular mass movement or political agenda or collective worldly hope, you can contemplate in (relative) tranquility what you once enthusiastically supported or violently condemned. And since you are no longer a True Believer, you are willing to entertain the possibility that what you once identified with was not really worth your allegiance, that it had many negative elements and consequences, even that it was in some ways a swindle of massive proportions.

As my experiences with psychedelic drugs, including marijuana, receded into the past, I could afford to recall and meditate upon the fact that LSD was first distributed in the United States by the CIA, partly in the context of the infamous MK-ULTRA mind-control program, which included experiments practiced upon unsuspecting American citizens that were worthy to stand beside those conducted in the Nazi death-camps (see the researches of David McGowan, Henry Makow and Peter Levenda). Timothy Leary was assigned to feed acid to the intelligentsia, Ken Kesey to everybody else; apparently the idea was to compare how it acted under “controlled conditions” with its effects in a totally free-wheeling, “party” atmosphere. And the hippies actually knew about this! They routinely said, “SURE we were a CIA experiment, man—an experiment that GOT OUT OF CONTROL!” Nor was the Agency simply interested in mind-control on the individual level, so as to produce Manchurian Candidate-like assassins for example. The CIA also likely sponsored the mass dissemination of LSD as part of MK-ULTRA. According to Peter Levenda, in his trilogy Sinister Forces: A Grimoire of American Political Witchcraft, William Mellon Hitchcock (scion of the billionaire Mellon family), who was associated with CIA front organizations Castle Bank and Trust and Resorts International, as well as being Timothy Leary’s landlord for his “psychedelic manor house” at Millbrook in upstate New York, paid a chemist by the name of Nicholas Sand to produce millions of doses of LSD. If this turns out to be true, then it was clearly their intent to drench the unsuspecting American populace with swimming-pools full of acid, in what might have been the largest mass paradigm-shifting action in human history.

Nor did the CIA only expose their victims and enemies—among whom we must include the American people—to the psychedelic drugs they had discovered and/or developed; they were also using them on themselves. The idea that the CIA wanted to employ psychedelics to “confuse and terrify” people is true as far as it goes, but they also apparently hoped that these substances could help their own agents gain magic powers: telepathy, remote viewing, etc. And they were also entirely willing to confuse and delight people if that would serve their ends. The hippy myth that the CIA were nothing but a bunch of uptight straight people who “couldn’t hold their acid” and saw it only as a crazy-making pill needs to be permanently debunked. The Bohemian/magician/secret agent is a well-known type; both the Elizbethan occultist John Dee (the original Agent 007) and the Satanist Aleister Crowley worked for British Intelligence. The ultimate goal of the powers-that-be in terms of psychedelic research, which has made a vigorous come-back in the academic world in recent years, may be to create a type of “spirituality” where even mystical experiences that are valid on a certain level will serve to establish their control. They want to own everything—even mysticism, even spiritual aspiration, even God. And the fact is, LSD did initiate a sort of “bardo” or revelatory decay of American society; all the latent tendencies, good and bad, the dominant belief-systems, conscious or otherwise, were called up in a very short time, laid out for all to see—and much of the social, cultural and spiritual potential of America and the Western World rapidly exhausted in the process. The family was largely destroyed (not by LSD alone of course); Christian morality was undermined, including the concept of human dignity; political responsibility was seriously eroded. And the social engineers simply sat back and took voluminous notes on the whole process. They noted the main trends, the major “cultural archetypes” operating in the “collective unconscious” of society, and devised various ways to appropriate, pervert, control and counterfeit every one of them. In so doing they initiated the world we live in today. The hippies naively equated social control with a simplistic authoritarian repression; they rarely awoke to the fact that real control is based on co-optation, on the covert implantation of engineered beliefs and attitudes in the mass mind. The powers that be do not want heroes who courageously oppose them and die as martyrs; they would much rather find, or create, dupes who will obey their every command in the firm belief that they are following their own desires, their own creative expressions and “spiritual” intuitions, all in perfect freedom.

And the New Age movement might well have been an even more of a mass social engineering job than the hippy counter-culture—though it would be wrong to claim that either movement was simply created by the social engineers out of the whole cloth, since both of them embraced elements of a true creative populism, as well as drawing upon the innate spiritual aspirations of the human race. In his last book, Manifesto for the Noösphere: The Next Stage in the Evolution of Human Consciousness, José Arguëlles drew upon the theories of one Oliver L. Reiser (1885-1974) as laid out in Reiser’s Cosmic Humanism (1966). Reiser was a scientist who developed an early version of superstring theory, was praised by Albert Einstein, and proposed the actual creation of Teilhard de Chardin’s “noösphere” by technological means, as well as a project for human eugenics through manipulating the radiation of the ionosphere; he apparently believed that mass radiation poisoning, such as was experienced at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, might ultimately have a eugenic effect upon the human race. According to researcher Drew Hemple,

Reiser’s book Cosmic Humanism was held in the highest esteem by a think tank called the Institute for Integrative Education. This think tank was set up by Forest Products magnate Julius Stulman and its office was then located at the UN Plaza. Its board of directors included the family that directed the nondualist Theosophist [Theosophical?] Society [which branch we are not told] and it also included scientists from Harvard and Yale. The goal of this Institute, as spelled out in their flagship academic journal Main Currents in Modern Thought (1940-1975) was to review all prominent academic journals and integrate all knowledge to the goals of nondualist theosophy. With this in mind the journal had a very advanced interest in eastern philosophy, paranormal research, eugenics, higher dimensional physics and social engineering.

Apparently the term “nondualism” as used by Hemple does not refer to the Hindu Advaita Vedanta, but rather to the agenda of creating a One World society by technological means. Hemple also claims, without supporting evidence, that José Arguëlles, who passed away in 2011, had CIA connections.

One more item should be mentioned: that according to the Arguëlles mythology, Harmonic Convergence was merely a preparatory event for the real paradigm shift that was to take place on December 21, 2012, which (according to some calculations, not all) was the day the Mayan calendar ended—a highly publicized event, with a relatively negligible effect, that came to be called The Mayan Apocalypse. It only remains to be pointed out that Harmonic Convergence and the Mayan Apocalypse represent one more case of the theft and bastardization of Native American religion by white people—not in naïve and misinformed appreciation like the hippies did it, but apparently for much more cynical purposes. The real Mayan Apocalypse took place in Guatemala in 1981-1983 when the Guatemalan army massacred the Quiché Maya. They destroyed 626 villages. Over 200,000 people were killed or disappeared, 1.5 million were displaced by the violence, and more than 150,000 were driven to seek refuge in Mexico. Were these tragedies remembered and mourned on December 21, 2012? If they were, I never heard of it.

So what was the ultimate effect of the various world peace prayer days that began in the 1980’s, of Harmonic Convergence, of the International Day of Peace, of the Mayan Apocalypse? Is it possible that all this effort on the part of many thousands of people had no real effect whatsoever—except to divert their attention away from true analysis and labor and into barren magical thinking? Perhaps something of value was accomplished, who knows? Nonetheless these events were deeply infected by, if not actually based upon, two fundamental errors.

The first error was the New Age doctrine that “consciousness creates material reality”—a notion derived in part from the fact that all creative human constructions, such as a building or an organization, begin as conceptions before they become established as facts. What is routinely forgotten in this way of thinking is that buildings do not build themselves, nor do organizations organize themselves. The initial creative conception must come into a fruitful relationship with the capital, the labor, the materials, and the pre-existing circumstances that allow for the organization to be developed or the building to be built. The belief that the subjective pole—consciousness—has precedence and authority over the objective pole—material conditions—is the essence of magical thinking, just as the belief that material conditions strictly determine consciousness is the principle of the worst, most hopeless and most fatalistic forms of materialism. Traditional metaphysics, on the other hand, makes it clear that God is the First Cause of both consciousness and conditions, which together constitute the creative polarity by which He manifests the universe. In the words of the Qur’an, I will show them My signs on the horizons and in their own souls until they are satisfied that this is the Truth. Is it not enough for you, that I am Witness over all things? (Q. 41:53).

The second error—or heresy, or blasphemy—is to put a human collective in the place of God, as if the pooling of the consciousness, the attention, the psychic energy of millions of human beings could somehow add up to the Power of God. This is not only impious, but frankly absurd. Those who rely in their prayer upon the notion that millions of others are praying at the same moment are not relying exclusively upon God—and a prayer that does not rely exclusively upon God is no prayer at all. This goes double, of course, for prayer that is offered by those millions to a heterogeneous assortment of entities, “angels”, spirit-guides and incompatible conceptions of the Divinity that, on certain levels at least, actually contradict each other. Each individual one of these faces of God may or may not be spiritually lawful and efficacious for the ones devoted to it: God is vast, His Mercy inexhaustible. But to worship them all at the same time can only produce a spiritual cacophony that might in some cases actually amount to a demonic invocation. Furthermore, no human collective—even if it follows a single unified revelation—can totally submit to God; only the individual can do that. This is the reason why all world-changing revelations given by God have come only through individuals, and why no spiritual community, no matter how faithful, ever became a saint. If God, within the context of a particular religion, allows or commands the community to pray as a community, this is only to support each individual within that community in his or her individual submission to Him; to the degree that this principle is lost sight of, the religious community in question—the sangha, the ummah, the mystical body—becomes not a real community of the faithful but an idol that destroys true faith at the root. If many individuals appeal to God, each in his or her own divine intimacy and solitude, great and miraculous things can happen—if God wills. Your brother’s faith in God can support and strengthen your own faith, but your faith in him—if it has begun to replace your faith in God—is worse than useless. As for your shaykh, your guru, your staretz, faith in him is equivalent to faith in God to the degree that he is annihilated in God. But as soon as your attachment to him as something other than God begins to veil the Divine Light, most likely because (consciously or otherwise) he is subtly provoking that attachment—or as soon as your attachment to the feeling of community support and validation begins to replace your reliance on God as your only Sustainer—then that spiritual leader and that religious community will be very fortunate if the worst thing that happens to them is….nothing at all.

As of this writing, the New Age as an influential popular movement is on the wane in North America. At the same time, as we have already seen in the case of Barbara Marx Hubbard, some of the dominant teachers of the movement have been inducted into the world of the ruling elites and their globalist think-tanks, if they didn’t actually arrive from that direction in the first place; this was in many ways the logical ultimate destination for the “New Age yuppie”. Given that one of the major doctrines of the New Age is “create your own reality”, those New Age practitioners who were able to “manifest their dreams” in the economic sphere had their belief in New Age principles triumphantly validated, while many of those (clearly the greater number) who failed in their economic hopes ultimately concluded that the teachings of the New Age were all impractical fantasy, and either returned to their Judeo-Christian roots (Jeff Daley, one of the directors of Global Family, later became a born-again Christian) or ended up seriously disillusioned with religion of any kind.

Judging from my own experience, it would appear that the True Believer sometimes has to take a tour of duty as the Paranoid Conspiracy Theorist before he can moderate and balance out the effects of his earlier limitless idealism. When and if such balance is finally achieved, worldly idealism (insha’Allah) becomes faith in God, and bitter cynicism, sobriety and detachment from the world.

***

In 2004 Jenny and I moved from California to Lexington, Kentucky, where the nearest Nimatullahi khaniqas were in Chicago and Washington D.C. Then, in 2008, Dr. Nurbakhsh passed away. A few years later a Muslim friend of mine in New York suggested that I investigate one of the Sufi silsilahs (lineages) that sprang from the great Sufi saint of Algeria, Shaykh Ahmed al-‘Alawi, who had initiated Frithjof Schuon. In 2010 I followed his lead and became an initiate of that order, which has only a handful of members in the United States. At last I felt I was connected with a Sufi order that had no “problems” with traditional Islam, though the order was certainly not immune to the prejudice against Sufism that many Muslims feel in our time, under the influence of the Wahhabi/Salafis. And since the order was based in North Africa, it perfectly matched the North African Sufis I had dreamt of when I was six years old, as well as manifesting the baraka (transmitted grace) and esoteric guidance that characterize the true tasawwuf. Furthermore, though any Sufi group may be forced to make certain alliances of a political nature for self-preservation in times of war or social chaos, my present order appears to be entirely without political identification, and consequently free to concentrate upon God and the inner life. I consider this to be the ideal; nothing but a weakening and distortion of the spiritual essence of tasawwuf can result from any sort of collective commitment of Sufism to a worldly social agenda.

Nonetheless, when the entire Muslim ummah faces a threat, it has not been the usual practice of the Sufis to claim “conscientious objector” status due to their spiritual preoccupation. Perhaps the greatest example of a Sufi sacred activist was Emir ʿAbd al-Qādir al-Djezairi (1808-1883), the illustrious Algerian freedom fighter against the French colonial invasion, who has been described as “a saint among princes and a prince among saints.” He was known for his impeccable honor and chivalry in battle, his good treatment of prisoners of war—following the example and command of the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him—and his graciousness and resignation to God’s will in defeat. Though imprisoned for time, he was later honored by the French government with Grand Cross of the Légion d’honneur (this was in the days when the people of France could still recognize the virtue of chevalerie), as well as decorations from Greece, Turkey and the Vatican. After his military career he retired to Damascus to compose his commentaries on the writings of, Ibn al-‘Arabi, the Shakyh al-Akbar (greatest Sufi shaykh); while residing in that city he opened the gates of his private compound to Christians fleeing massacre during a rebellion of the Druzes, then stood side-by-side with his retainers, ready to defend his Christian guests with force of arms.

Nonetheless, until the year 2013, I remained entirely outside the world of activism, sacred or otherwise. I quickly saw how almost every major political effort in today’s world, whether for peace or social justice or environmental protection, had been largely co-opted by the powers that be. With lightning speed I discerned—accurately or otherwise—the essential contradictions in all the social movements I surveyed, ran them ahead in my mind’s eye to their ultimate conclusions, and found them barren. The only kind of choice I saw in any sort of idealistic worldly effort was that between Gog or Magog, so I was content to sit things out till I found myself in an entirely different world, one where earthly hopes and agendas have no meaning.

Then—unexpectedly, providentially—an opportunity presented itself for me to participate in the most complete form of Sacred Activism I had yet encountered. In 2013 my publisher James Wetmore, for whom I had done some editing in the past, showed me a proposal from one Dr. John Andrew Morrow for a book entitled The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, asking me what I thought of it. I took one look at that proposal and told Mr. Wetmore to jump on it quick, that Dr. Morrow’s book was the most crucially relevant document to today’s world that I could possibly imagine. When first I talked by phone with Dr. Morrow—a Native American from Quebec whose Muslim name is Imam Ilyas ‘Abd al-‘Alim Islam—I said: “Our press doesn’t have a large marketing budget for your book—but I think we can make a movement out of it.” The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, for which I was one of the editors and to which contributed a foreword, was published in October of 2013. Between that time and now, Dr. Morrow’s book has indeed become the basis of an international peace movement in the United States, Europe and the Muslim world. My connection with this movement has in no way been dictated by my Sufi order, nor am I at all inclined to preach it to them; I am acting strictly as an individual. Yet insofar as the Sufis practice the most radical form of submission to God imaginable—submission to the point of self-annihilation—then, if involvement with this movement is indeed God’s will for me, it must be considered as one of the fruits of Sufism in my life. One indication of this is that during my work with the Covenants I wrote and published a book on Sufism entitled Day and Night on the Sufi Path (Angelico/Sophia Perennis, 2015).

The covenants or treaties of the Prophet with various Christian communities of his time, which Dr. Morrow rediscovered in obscure monasteries, collections and books long out of print, sometimes newly translating them into English and providing powerful arguments for their validity, uniformly state that Muslims are not to attack peaceful Christian communities, rob them, stop churches from being repaired, tear down churches to build mosques, prevent their Christian wives from going to church and taking spiritual direction from Christian priests and elders, etc. On the contrary, the Prophet commands Muslims to actively aid and defend these communities “until the coming of the Hour”, the end of the world. When Emir ‘Abd al-Qadir defended the Christians of Damascus from massacre at the hands of the Druzes, he was following the Prophet’s Covenants to the letter. In response to Dr. Morrow’s resurrection of these documents I conceived of an initiative—the Covenants Initiative—which invites Muslims to subscribe to the theory that the Covenants of the Prophet are legally binding upon them today. The heart of the Covenants Initiative is the following Declaration:

We the undersigned hold ourselves bound by the spirit and the letter of the covenants of the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) with the Christians of the world, in the understanding that these covenants, if accepted as genuine, have the force of law in the shari‘ah today and that nothing in the shari‘ah, as traditionally and correctly interpreted, has ever contradicted them. As fellow victims of the terror and godlessness, the spirit of militant secularism and false religiosity now abroad in the world, we understand your suffering as Christians through our suffering as Muslims, and gain greater insight into our own suffering through the contemplation of your suffering. May the Most Merciful of the Merciful regard the sufferings of the righteous and the innocent; may He strengthen us, in full submission to His will, to follow the spirit and the letter of the covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the world in all our dealings with them. In the name of Allah, Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Praise be to Allah, the Cherisher and Sustainer of the worlds.

In The System of Antichrist (Sophia Perennis, 2001) I had called for a “united front ecumenism” of the world religions against three things: non-traditional religious fanaticism, false psychic religion, and militant secularism. I presented this form of interfaith action as the proper outer or exoteric expression of the Transcendent Unity of Religions, as opposed to “promiscuous Liberal ecumenism”, whose ultimate goal is the dissolution of all the faiths in some kind of One World Church. United front ecumenism exerts no pressure on the religions to syncretize their doctrines with a view toward worldly unification. Instead, it posits their transcendent unity by demonstrating how the forces of religious fanaticism, psychic pseudo-religion and militant secularism have declared war on all the world religions, thereby demonstrating that these religions represent a common threat in the eyes of those forces, and consequently that all the true religions must spring from a single Source. This is not to say that there can’t be a legitimate form of “esoteric ecumenism” (Schuon’s term) which discerns the metaphysical First Principles that all revealed religions and wisdom traditions hold in common, only that the necessary plurality of these revelations and traditions is itself one of those First Principles. I never believed that I would live to see anything resembling a true united front ecumenism, so I just described what I thought it would look like and left it at that. Then, twelve years later, the perfect incarnation of united front ecumenism, the Covenants Initiative, simply fell into my lap, and then went on to become an international movement. As the poet William Butler Yeats put it, “In dreams begin responsibilities.”

It is my belief that success of the Covenants Initiative—which, outside of the labor of the publisher, editors and printers, and various informal alliances we have made with journalists and other activists, is basically the work of two individuals—can only be explained by the fact that God willed it. It is a part of the virtue of faith to remain open to this possibility, while remembering that God’s will can be expressed in innumerable different ways in our lives, that no human being is exempt from that will, and consequently that to receive a command from Him is in no way a badge of status, spiritual or otherwise, but rather a serious duty that must not be ignored.

While true spiritually-based social action, even militant action, can certainly be carried on within a Christian framework, it will always be secondary to the interior life and the grace of the sacraments. After all, Jesus Christ (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “My kingdom is not of this world.” Unlike Christ, however, the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) was sent not only as a mystical sage and a moral teacher, but also as a husband, a father, a business man, a diplomat, a judge, an administrator and a military leader. Consequently Sacred Activism within a Muslim context is less subject to internal contradictions than a hybrid spiritual/political theory like Liberation Theology is within a Christian context. On the other hand, the integration into the religion of Islam of the perennial human necessity for militant action becomes a great danger when the essential spirituality of the religion, including the “organized mysticism” of the Sufi orders, becomes weakened. The vast damage done by an “Islamicist” militancy when it cuts itself loose from the “just war” doctrine and rules of warfare to be found in the traditional shari’ah—not the latter-day perversion of the shari’ah promulgated by the Wahhabi/Salafis—should be obvious to all. The continuing evidence of support for certain Islamicist elements by the United States and other outside powers must also be taken into consideration, in light of which it should be painfully clear that it is next to impossible for Islam to wage any kind of just war against western neo-colonialism when terrorist armies, fighting in the name of Islam, are willing to accept funds and arms from the west. By the same token, the “turn the other cheek” doctrine of Christianity, which represents the height of spiritual heroism when the faith is strong, is in danger of becoming a culpable form of cowardice in the face of political, moral and spiritual evil when the faith loses force. It’s as if Christianity, in its decadence, is vulnerable to infection by the Dark Feminine principle—something that is certainly visible, for example, in the Catholic pedophilia scandal—whereas when Islam degenerates it tends to manifest the Dark Masculine principle in the form of terroristic brutality. And just as Christianity continues to abandon its virility in the face of internal decay, militant secularism and the Islamicist threat—though we must remember here that more Muslims than Christians have died at the hands of terrorist groups such as the so-called Islamic State—so the compromised manhood of Islam, which has also been weakened by both external attack and internal decay, becomes even more vicious and perverted under the influence of Christian weakness and apostasy—a weakness that tempts militant Islam, or rather something that is no longer true Islam as soon as it succumbs to this temptation, to every kind of excess. Thus effeteness and barbarism create each other. Regarding the passivity of degenerate Christianity, it should be remembered at this point that, according to traditional Catholic moral theology, to become “an occasion of sin” for other people is sinful in itself. Seeing that cowards are a standing temptation to bullies, this means that anyone who will not defend him- or herself from invasion or unjust oppression bears part of the guilt of the oppressor—not to mention the fact those who won’t defend themselves will certainly not be willing or able to defend anybody else.  Likewise no Muslim should ever forget the following two hadith of the Prophet:

Someone who unjustly kills a dhimmi (member of an accepted religious minority within Islam, including Christians and Jews) cannot get a whiff of Heaven. (Sahih Bukhari, Jizya, 5)

Whoever oppresses a dhimmi or loads a work that is over his strength or takes something away from him by force, I am his foe on the Day of Judgment. (Abu Dawud, Kharaj, 31-33)

The Covenants of the Prophet, which have left a clear historical and textual trail that traces back to their original composition by the Prophet himself, are precisely in line with hadith like this. As soon as Dr. Morrow began to make these documents known to the Muslim world— which had begun to forget their existence, or at least their continuing significance—Muslims from all walks of life, including many prominent scholars, began to join our movement and make it their own. Less than a year after the publication of The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World, Dr. Morrow was denouncing ISIS before the House of Lords in London. And, from one point of view at least, our movement (or at least the first cycle of it) culminated in 2016 in the Marrakesh Declaration, issued by the leaders of many Muslim nations after a convention in Marrakesh, Morocco, which renewed the traditional protections granted to non-Muslim religious minorities within Muslim nations, based on the Prophet’s Constitution of Medina. We were told by officials of the Islamic Society of North America that our work with the Covenants Initiative was one of the inspirations for that Declaration.

Sacred Activism is one of the many ways God’s Will can manifest in the lives of those who love Him. It is certainly not necessary to the spiritual life, consequently there is no way I can “recommend” it. If it is part of God’s Will for you, then He will eventually present you with it. If not, then you should not have to live in the shadow of it—though it would still probably be a good idea if you could get some notion of what it entails, since a time may come when militant action under God’s guidance will become a spiritual if not a physical necessity for more people than today. The main thing to remember, in my opinion, is that the spiritual life requires two things if we want to live out the fullness of it: a connection to one of the Divine revelations or wisdom-traditions, and a degree of insight into God’s specific Will for you, along with a total willingness to obey that Will as it unfolds. This second requirement is what the Hindus call swadharma, one’s individual spiritual destiny: “Better to perform your own duty, however poorly,” they say, “than the duty of someone else, no matter how well.” This history is not to be taken as a model for other people’s movements and projects, only as a picture of what God can do when we human beings realize that we can do nothing without Him. As the Noble Qur’an informs us, Every day doth some new work employ Him [Q.55:29].

 

Freedom from the Social Hell: A Response to the 2016 U.S. Election

This essay was partly inspired by the recent presidential election in the United States. It was an extremely strange election, one that presented us with the picture of a number of groups waging all-out war on their mental images of other groups, on phantasms that gave the definite impression of having departed further from reality than any we’ve seen for a long time. This is one necessary outcome of the mental illness known as ideological thinking. As soon as you grant greater authority to an ideology that you’ve adopted, or that’s been imposed on you, than to your own experience, or to the collective experience of the human race over many millennia, you have entered a condition of socio-political insanity. Suggestions as to how to cure this dangerous malady appear below.


A bully sees everyone who’s not a bully as a weakling. A coward sees a person with a strong character as a bully, or at least a potential one. A person eaten up with intellectual pride sees a loving person as a flabby sentimentalist. A materialistic person sees an intellectual as someone living in an “ivory tower”. An obsessively moralistic person sees an easygoing person as lax and degenerate. An amoral person sees anyone with moral principles as “judgmental”. A sentimentalist sees all intellectuals as cruel and cold-hearted. A swindler sees an honest person as foolish and naïve. A hard-hearted individual sees a compassionate person as nothing but a “bleeding heart”. A hypocrite thinks that everyone else must be a hypocrite like he is. A cold, calculating manipulator sees anyone who would never descend to such manipulation because he respects other people as either a hypocrite or a fool. An introverted narcissist sees a more extraverted person as brassy and shallow. An extraverted narcissist sees a more introverted person as either a social coward or a secret snob, etc., etc., etc.

The effect of these false and self-serving opinions is that any notion of a strong person who isn’t interested in dominating others, of a person whose love is inseparable from discipline and intelligence, of a sage who possesses real practical wisdom, of a friendly and gregarious person who isn’t addicted to self-indulgence, of a moral person who is more interested in rectifying his own faults than searching for faults in others, of an intellectual with real empathy and emotional understanding, of an honest person who understands what dishonesty is and knows how to protect himself from it, of a compassionate person who is not dominated by sentimental pity, of a “straight” person who is no more nor less than what he shows himself to be, of an intelligent person who has no desire to use his intelligence to gain advantage over others, of a self-contained person who is perfectly content not to draw attention to himself, etc., etc.—all these ideas of what it is to be a human being disappear from our collective mythology. The upshot is that we begin to see ourselves more or less as demons living in the society of other demons, and can no longer easily imagine any way of acting other than the way demons act. This is how human society is transformed into a collective Hell.

What is the origin of these false opinions and delusions? In the last analysis, every one of them stems from the same thing: the disastrous fact that we no longer know what a human being is.

We believe—because we are taught—that a human being is an animal, a machine, an automaton controlled by unconscious obsessions and complexes, an organism designed by deoxyribonucleic acid to create and propagate more deoxyribonucleic acid, a function of class, a function of race, a function of genetics, a function of gender, a function of advertising, a function of social conditioning, a function of past trauma, a function of systematic social engineering, a function of technological society, a function of environmental influences, a function of brain chemistry. But we are wrong: a human being—the sort of creature we used to think of as having an inalienable right to something called human dignity—is none of these things: a human being is a microcosm; an axial being; the locus-of-manifestation for the Imago Dei; the bearer of the Trust; the divinely-appointed steward of creation; the human face of the Names of God on earth. This used to be so obvious that we had no words for it, nor did we need any. It is now so forgotten that all the words in the world can’t make us remember it.

If we really knew this, like we once did—if we knew that the Presence of God blazes in the human heart like the Sun—then we would see the integral, authentic, harmonious, balanced, virtuous aspects of the human character as so many rays of that Sun, shining into, and imprinting themselves upon, all the multiple facets and variations of our social interaction, so as to constitute the universally-recognized norms of these many human worlds. If we knew integrity, we could recognize disintegration. If we knew authenticity, we could discern deception. If we knew virtue, we could detect degeneracy. If we knew harmony, we could sense discord. If we knew balance, we could evaluate chaos. If we truly understood these things we would possess the universal Criterion, the one that caused Protagoras to declare that “man is the measure of all things.” But we cannot know integrity, authenticity, harmony, balance and virtue, we cannot know that man is the measure of all things, unless we first know that God is the measure of man. He is the One Who possesses our eternal design, the integral human form that slipped from our consciousness when we ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil, and thereby obtained both the vain, prideful knowledge of ourselves as good and others as evil, and the bitter, envious knowledge of ourselves as evil and others as good—much better than they deserve to be, which is why they need to be torn down so there can be “a level playing-field”.

So what is the way out of this collective human Hell—the one that led Jean-Paul Sartre to say, “Hell is other people”? The way out is for us to stop defining ourselves according to the criterion of “other people”. If we get our DNA from our ancestors not our contemporaries, can’t we mold our characters on true and traditional principles rather than ephemeral social norms?  The way out is for us to stop trying to conform ourselves to collective stereotypes, and to do so as quickly as possible so we can let God create us again, as we were in the beginning: “Send forth Thy Spirit and they shall be created, and Thou shalt renew the face of the earth” [traditional Catholic prayer, based on the Psalms]. Nimrod, in the Book of Genesis, started building a Tower he hoped would reach to Heaven, till God stopped him in his tracks. He did this to give Nimrod a chance to remember that he was that Tower already. “Unless the Lord build the House, they labor in vain who build it” [Psalm 127]. But Nimrod did not remember—and we in our own time have forgotten even what little he knew. That’s why our own towers are even taller than Nimrod’s was, and less stable than his, and a lot uglier: They forgot God, says the Qur’an, so God caused them to forget themselves [59:19].

The work is only to remember, to pray to God as if you saw Him, because even if you don’t see Him, He sees you [hadith of Bukhari and Muslim]. What we see is biased; even the saint still has the faint, tiny glimmer of a bias in him (and knows it—that’s what makes him a saint). But God sees things as they are. Only He really knows who’s who and what’s what, so it’s best to leave the decision up to Him. We may issue our decree, and even manage to enforce it, but we can never rest in it; there is no rest for us except in God’s decree. His Eye is the farmer’s plow and the mason’s hammer; He creates what He sees simply by seeing it. In the depth of His Will, and our submission to it, lies the end of all conflict—the “Peace that passeth understanding” [Philippians 4:7]. Enfolded in that Peace, we understand that all existing things, including ourselves, do not exist as we see them, only as He sees them. Knowing this, we can free our self-imagined selves from the imagined hell represented by “other people”, and those other people from the hell of our own social ideologies, our own abject failure to achieve omnipotence and omniscience and eternal justification; we can learn how to receive “the rain that falls on the just and the unjust” [Matthew 4:45]. While we are occupied only with measuring our imagined selves against our real selves, our self-created mythic existences against our true and eternal forms in the mind of God, we will have neither the space nor the time to measure others—only to salute them.

Mankind were but one community; then they differed; and had it not been for a word that had already gone forth from thy Lord it had been judged between them in respect of that wherein they differ. [Qur’an 10:19]

The word that had already gone forth from thy Lord was the fitrah, the Primordial Adamic Human Nature, the original revelation of God to man—and as man. As soon as we recognize this fitrah in ourselves, we gain the ability to see it in others. Our socio-political insanity is cured. Ideological thinking comes to an end.

 

 

A Muslim Challenge To President Donald Trump

Donald Trump, now elected President of the United States, appears in the minds of many of us to have slandered every Muslim in America. He might not have intended this; he may not be fully aware that this is the effect of some of his reported statements. Whether or not he plans to unleash widespread persecution of American Muslims, whether or not he intends to deny us our legal and constitutional rights as Americans, remains to be seen. Be that as it may, everything we presently fear from him goes back to this original and fundamental slander. Perhaps he did not express this slander in so many words, but—unless the whole problem can be attributed to the mis-reporting of his statements by the Liberal media—he certainly appears to have done so by implication, by innuendo, by omission, and by accepting the support of, and failing to distance himself from, those groups and individuals who would see Muslims denied equal protection under U.S. law, subjected to special censures and restrictions, persecuted specifically as a religion—a practice which, if it ever becomes law or enters into widespread practice, will almost certainly be applied to other religions as well. And he has not only apparently slandered us for being Muslims, but for being bad Muslims, for betraying our own religion, for being apostates from Islam. The calumny that many Muslims, rightly or wrongly, presently see as coming from him is that American Muslims, as well as Muslims as a whole, are so destitute of honor and self-respect, so lacking in the fear of Allah, so deficient in fundamental human dignity, that every Muslim is a potential terrorist—and therefore that we would willingly, and without the slightest shame, lower ourselves so far, sink so deeply into the scum of life, as to give our approval and our support to the likes of ISIL and al-Qaeda and al-Nursa and Boko Haram, to these sub-human mad dogs who defile the Holy Qur’an every day of their lives, who spit in the face of our beloved Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, dragging his name in the dirt and spreading the most scurrilous slanders against him to all corners of the earth, till the very name “Muhammad” has become synonymous in the minds of many with “criminal madman”! The substance of this slander is that the majority of Muslims would easily, off-handedly and without the slightest pang of guilt, betray what we claim is most sacred to us, that we would rush to give our support to traitors and apostates who have violated every precept of the Holy Qur’an, who have replaced the image of the noble character of the Prophet in their hearts with the putrid corruption of the devotees of Shaytan (Satan) and the minions of al-Dajjal (Antichist). He has spoken and acted in the apparent belief that we have taken as our moral ideal a bunch of lowlife fifth-columnists and traitors who have actually had the temerity, and also the rank stupidity, to accept funds, arms and logistical support from the nations of the West, first among these being the United States of America! And all this in the name of defending Islam against neo-colonialism and foreign domination!

Heretofore a minority of U.S. Muslims have felt it politic to turn to the administration of Barack Obama, as well as to the presidential campaign of Hillary Clinton, to advance our collective interests and seek protection from the rising tide of Islamophobia. And if certain indications appeared that the United States was not as committed to the destruction of ISIL as one might conclude from a cursory overview of the daily news, this was more or less accepted as part of the “deal”.

But now that deal is off. If Hillary had been elected, if it can be proved that Huma Abedin does indeed have close ties to both the Wahhabi establishment of Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood as has been reported—the ideological and financial centers of radical Islamic extremism—and if she had remained a close advisor to Hillary, possibly her chief of staff, then the U.S. would likely have continued in the grip of a hopeless contradiction: supporting terrorism while simultaneously fighting it. Under such conditions, every move that we as American Muslims would have tried to make toward dealing with Islamophobia and countering the accusation of secret Islamicist sympathies would have been compromised from day one by the willingness of a short-sighted minority to accept patronage and protection from those elements of the power elite who have been dealing with and giving aid and support to Islamicist extremism all along—a reality which, in this age of WikiLeaks, could in no way have been kept under wraps as it has been in the past. So our goose would have been thoroughly cooked.

Two cases in point: A 2014 email exchange released by WikiLeaks between Hillary Clinton and John Podesta (then White House adviser to President Barack Obama), frankly welcomed the ISIL 2014 offensive in Iraq, stating that “the advance of ISIL [ISIS] through Iraq gives the U.S. Government an opportunity to change the way it deals with the chaotic security situation in North Africa and the Middle East. The most important factor in this matter is to make use of intelligence resources and Special Operations troops in an aggressive manner.” Hillary apparently recognized, according to one interpretation of this statement, that ISIS provided a pretext for launching a renewed US military intervention aimed at furthering the strategic goal of American hegemony in the Middle East under the guise of a struggle against terrorism. As for case number two, it now appears—based on statements from government officials (including FBI director James Comey), policy recommendations from think-tanks (including the Brookings Institution), as well as reports from a number of sources close to the White House, that it was U.S. policy under Obama not to arrest and prosecute ISIS fighters returning to the United States, but to attempt to “reintegrate” them into U.S. society, thus putting all Americans at risk. It would have been a weary task for American Muslim leaders to try and convince the American people that “we’re not all terrorists” while their less enlightened brothers and sisters continued to accept Federal patronage, even as damning revelations like these continued to emerge. And in view of the fact that ISIS has published a hit list of American Muslim leaders, the willingness of a minority of American Muslims to seek patronage from Barack Obama and uncritically support Hillary Clinton appears, in hindsight, to have been a bit unwise.

Now, however, we have been relieved of this burden of enforced self-destruction by two truly game-changing developments: first, the election of Donald Trump; second, the unequivocal excommunication of the Salafi extremists in the group fatwa known as the Grozny Declaration, issued in August this year after a conference of traditional leaders in the city of Grozny in the Chechen Republic. It’s as if, to compensate for the hard blow of Trump’s election—which some have interpreted as “now it’s open season on Muslims”—Allah in His Mercy has sent us this Declaration, at almost the same moment, as a great and powerful ray of strength and healing. No longer will we be assaulted by painful moral ambiguities and uncertainties as to what constitutes the true Islam of the Holy Qur’an and the Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings be upon him. No longer will we be forced to harbor a vague and secret guilt—a false guilt if there ever was one—which whispers to us that we are somehow less than faithful Muslims because we can in no way stomach the crimes of ISIL and Boko Haram, their rapes, ghoulish tortures and heartless murders and genocides, not only of Christians but of many more Muslims than Christians—of any Muslim at all, man, woman and child, who refuses to go along with their perversion and destruction of the very religion they pretend to follow! Now we can be sure that the voice of our fundamental humanity, that voice which told us in no uncertain terms to reject these crimes of torture and murder of innocent civilians as fundamentally incompatible with our Muslim faith, was the true voice, that nothing in Islam ever could or ever will contradict it, seeing that Islam is al-Din al-Fitrah, the religion of the prophet Adam himself, of our primordial humanity as Allah created us—and consequently that the voice of the sneaking whisperer [cf. the Surah an-Naas] who told us that Allah would forgive any crime, no matter how shameful or vicious, as long as we committed it in His Name, was nothing less than the voice of Shaytan. Just think about it for a moment, my brothers and sisters. If we were to commit adultery and then tell our spouse “I did it for you”; if we were to murder our brother and then tell our father, “I did it for you, to show my respect for you”—should we really expect our parent, our spouse, to except these excuses—or, rather, these flat-out self-condemnations? The Grozny Declaration simply re-affirms, in the name of many of the central authorities of traditional Islam—Ahmed el-Tayeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, the central authority of traditional Sunni Islam; the Grand Mufti of Egypt, Shawki Allam; the ex-Grand Mufti of Egypt, Ali Gomaa; Usama al-Azhari, religious adviser to  President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi of Egypt; Habib Ali al-Jifri of the Tabah Foundation, based in Qatar; Abdul Fattah al-Bizm, Mufti of Damascus; and last but not least the Russian Council of Muftis, which seconded the Grozny Declaration in a declaration of their own—what we already knew in our heart of hearts: unless, that is, we were already irretrievably lost. We certainly cannot pretend that this declaration was issued in a political vacuum nor that it will not produce a degree of division and conflict within the House of Islam; such is always the case when the truth is told, clearly and without fear or shame, to a world threaded through with lies and corruption and moral compromise.

Newly armed and strengthened by the Grozny Declaration, and armed as well with the list (now in preparation) of literally hundreds other of statements, projects and actions by Muslims in opposition to ISIL and the other Takfiri terrorists, both within the United States and in many other parts of the world, let us challenge Donald Trump to rethink and restate his position vis-a-vis the religion of Islam, providing him with all the information he would need to come to a fair and just decision. It may well be that Trump’s position is simply based on a very common type of ignorance—though an unwillingness on his part to consider the evidence we offer would compel us to come to a different conclusion. We must always remember the words of the Prophet Muhammad, “acts are judged by their intent.” If his intent is pure, if he is acting mostly out of ignorance, he may still adopt a more reasonable and helpful stance. He may yet prove to us, and to the American people, he is serious about allying with Russia to bring down ISIL, that this pledge is not just one more in a long line of empty promises that he, like so many presidents whose identity in office bears little resemblance to their various stated positions on the campaign trail, will not and cannot keep. If so, we are duty bound to let him know that we are willing to stand shoulder to shoulder with him against this cancer that is destroying Islam. But along with this offer of help goes a necessary warning: that there is no way that he, or Alexander Putin, or anyone else can defeat ISIL and the other Takfiri terrorists presently infesting the world, without the help of the true and traditional Muslims. The outcome of the Grozny conference apparently demonstrates that Putin already knows this. Let us watch and wait to see whether Trump learns the same lesson, in the short time still remaining for him to learn it. The ball is in his court.

The Age of Absolute Flight

What is the Calamity?
Ah, what will convey unto thee what the Calamity is!
A day wherein mankind will be as thickly-scattered moths [Qur’an 101:2-4]

We have entered an age of absolute flight from reality. We don’t want to be who we are or where we are or what we are. We want to be a different sex (Bruce Jenner), a different race (Michael Jackson), and pretty soon, I’m sure, a different species. An under-age boy apparently asked his parents if he could be a girl, so they had him castrated and pumped full of female hormones. Why is this not considered child abuse? And what if he had asked to be a raccoon instead? Science and the medical profession will undoubtedly soon be able to provide him with at least a first step toward this newly-conceived “freedom”…

We have entered an age of mass human insanity. Prof. Stephen Hawking has said that one of the things that frightens him most is the possibility of human contact with extra-terrestrial alien intelligences. His response to this threat? To partner with a billionaire and initiate an all-out campaign to discover extra-terrestrial alien intelligences. Both the United States and the European Union have dedicated financial and technological resources to finding extra-terrestrial life. Why? They have done so in the wild, last-ditch hope that we might thereby discover that we are “not alone.”

But there are over six billion of us now; why do we feel alone? We never felt alone when there were far fewer of us. If we ever do find living bacteria in the sub-surface oceans of Ganymede, I hope they will be some very compassionate and understanding bacteria, “friendly” bacteria, like those in our digestive tract…if these bacteria love us—or at least if they agree not to destroy us—maybe that will overcome our cosmic loneliness. We might even be able to establish communication with them…

A number of scientists apparently now believe that if we ever discover life, even the most rudimentary kind, on other planets, this will somehow disprove the existence of God—a notion that is completely devoid of any form or degree of rationalism or logic; a non-sequitur; a convulsive, arbitrary declaration with no meaning to it whatsoever. Clearly few of them realize that every religion that believes in a Creator believes He created not just the earth but the entire universe, as well as a vast chain of higher worlds, both formal and formless…stunning ignorance! The Holy Qur’an, for example, names Allah Rab al-Alimin, “Lord of the Worlds”, often given as 18,000 or 70,000 in number, and speaks of other races of humanity than the one we know…

Our loneliness does not stem, however, from uncertainty as to whether other planets inhabited by intelligent beings exist. It stems from the fact that, as a collective, we can no longer confidently conceive of the existence of God, His awareness of us, His care for us, His awesome wrath and majesty if we betray and abandon the human form He has created us to inhabit…which is simply to say that the loneliness that science claims to be laboring to save us from, it itself has created.

Luckily there are graces available to us in these latter days, these days of the fitna, that were never accessible before, because never necessary. In the words of the great Hindu epic, the Ramayana:

In the first age of the world
men crossed the ocean of existence
by their spirit alone.
In the second age sacrifice and ritual began,
and then Rama lived,
and by giving their every act to him
men lived well their ways.
Now in our age what is there to do
but worship at Rama’s feet?
But, my friend, the last age
of this world shall be best,
for then no act has any worth, all is useless….
except only to say Rama.
The future will read this. Therefore I tell them:
When all is in ruin around you, just say Rama.
We have gone from the spiritual to the passionate.
Next will come Ignorance. Universal war.
Say Rama and win! Your time cannot touch you.