Soon after one begins to study religion phenomenologically as the exploration of actual experiences, one discovers that experiential spirituality includes both active and passive approaches. The passive approach studies those experiences that occur to others and indirectly through whatever monuments they bequeath to us, their successors. This is the orthodox approach that has become the religious establishment of the new world order, the organization of the great religious monuments of mankind. Their names are familiar to us: the Bible, both Old and New Testaments so-called, and the Quran are the two great Western examples . In Asia, the Vedas, the Pali Canon, and the Tibetan and Chinese canons, including the Taoist canon fall into this category, along with many others in both the West and Asia, in a descending hierarchy of influence and authority (e.g., the Egyptian Book of the Dead, the Zohar, the Nag Hammadi, the Upanishads, I Ching, the writings of Padmasambhava, etc., etc., etc.) These traditions have been codified through long discussion over centuries, and are all deeply influenced by the feudal period of history. For most of them, feudalism came later than the period of their inception and is now in its twilight, especially the belief in authority, the tendency to fundamentalism, and a hierarchical collectivist totalitarianism that would not be tolerated in ordinary society today. A notable exception to the foregoing generalization is Islam.
The active approach to the phenomenological exploration of spiritual experience entails the deliberate induction of experiences that may be described as “spiritual,” “religious,” or “mystical,” for it is true that experiences of this type are not merely experienced, they are also sought and have been for tens of thousands of years. It is certainly true that the religious monuments referred to above are amongst the greatest works of human genius and true wonders of the world, if by “greatness” we mean beauty, sublimity, profundity, humanity, depth, splendour, grandeur, and ultimate righteousness, as well as the capacity to induce these qualities in others. The traditions associated with these icons receive the utmost veneration of billions of humans, and have since very early in their inception. All tend to various degrees of mutual animosity and hostility.
Orthodoxy, as noted above, tends to preserve traditional modes of thought and moral and ethical systems that affect the societies with which they exist. However, the growing power of science, technology and industry has led to a new world order, a secular society that tolerates tradition because of its stability but is fundamentally hostile to it.
Both orthodoxy and the new world order are inherently interested in their own beliefs, values and systems of organization and all therefore are collectivist and conformist in principle. Active experiential spirituality, on the other hand, is inherently individual, experimental, challenging and even dysfunctional (a common characteristic of all creative states). Thus orthodoxy and the new world order both dislike it. Yet the authentic phenomenological exploration of experience leads inevitably to it, for no one can truly understand what one has not experienced themselves and the direct experience of being demands the daring to demand a personal and direct relationship with it. Without this direct and personal relationship to being there is no authenticity and no truth. In the words of Heidegger, science does not think. This judgement stands inscribed above all of the portals of academe today, which collaborates with the new world order in the service of tradition, whilst bantering or bickering, as the case may be, over footnotes.
All of the foregoing is crystallized around the whole social hysteria and authoritarian collectivist conformism surrounding the legal status of LSD and other psychedelics, the ultimate Arrows of the Path. It is only when we imagine a world that is truly free that we realize just how truly unfree we are, as we enter the era of scientific totalitarianism foretold by Huxley. Huxley also supported the hypothesis, subsequently developed by Terence McKenna, of the origin of the rapid evolution of the human neocortex in the ingestion of hallucinogenic mushrooms by early primates. Any discussion of active spiritual phenomenology therefore carries with it an aura of danger and risk.
When one studies spiritual and religious experience in this way one begins to recognize the recurrence of methods and techniques that parallel Jung’s doctrine of the archetypes, which, either alone or when in combination with actual psychedelics, have the capacity to induce authentic and transformative personal spiritual and religious crises in suitably prepared individuals in appropriate and supportive settings. These methods and techniques are complex, incorporating many different elements, conditioned by psychology, symbology, metaphysics, historical tradition, time, culture, place, etc. However, when one analyzes these one does not find increasing complexity. Instead, one discovers a finite set of active methods and techniques that in turn correspond to the methods and techniques used by archaic peoples whose origins in prehistory presumably reflect universal dynamics that underlie the historical traditions that survive today. These methods and techniques appear to operate in conjunction with inherent characteristics of human psychology to induce altered states of consciousness, including alterations in physical sensing, emoting, thinking, and changes in energy and behaviour. Although difficult and dysfunctional changes do occur, the overwhelming preponderance of judgement of those who have had these experiences, including highly educated and trained observers, is that they are positive, blissful, truthful, energizing and ennobling experiences, and that they lead to real, long-lasting and beneficial psychological changes and social behaviours. Similarly, Mircea Eliade found that the shamans were the psychologically healthiest and most integrated members of society. The religious monuments of tradition originate and also produce experiences of just this type, much of their art, literature and oral traditions originating in just this type of experience. The scientific totalitarianism of the new world order however places a negative construction upon these experiences as well as tradition itself, the influence of which is being progressively eroded by the influence of the former, including judgements that these experiences are bizarre, dysfunctional, delusional, disorienting, false and individually and socially dangerous aberrations. Communism is the logical resultant of radical secularism in which religion is actively persecuted and criminalized. Under the current dominant system of scientific totalitarianism and global corporatism, it is medicalized and suppressed with drug treatments if necessary to induce a return to consensual conformity. It is barely tolerated in the form of the creative fringe.