On the heels of the success of our first book Forbidden History, the new volume, due out in November, deals with the untold story of western spiritual traditions. The following preview is reprinted from the introduction.—Editor
The history of the world, it has been alleged, is the history of a war between secret societies. And religion, it is sometimes argued, is but the public tip of a secret iceberg by which human activity at large can be directed for good or ill. And just as the real agendas of the leaders may have been secret, so, also, the true purposes of many religions have been, for the most part, hidden from public view. Like the wind, though, invisibility does not mean an absence of force, direction, or intensity which, to a careful observer, can reveal the ultimate goal. And just as there are approved religions which advance the hidden purposes of the powers that be, there are also essentially forbidden religions which do not and whose followers must gather in virtual secrecy.
If ‘religion’ is defined as a set of beliefs and practices, maintained by the faithful which assert the nature of divinity and his (or, her, or its) relationship to humanity, then many people are, in fact, religious who do not think they are. Indeed, even those who deny the existence of a deity are themselves religious, in that they espouse a belief in the nature of deity (i.e., that it does not exist) which they cannot prove and which is maintained by something very much like faith.
In the meantime, many have come to believe that behind the veil, strings are pulled; and preachers of every persuasion, including the secular, the scientific and the political, proclaim the visions which have been revealed to them, while an ancient and invisible chess match, among hidden elites, has shaped the history of us all and continues to do so to this very day.
Today, as often before, the great struggle is focused on the true dimensions of our inner being and at stake may be the survival of the human soul itself.
On one hand are those who see the human race as little more than a collection of consumers for artificially manufactured stuff—religious or academic doctrines included. By their way of thinking, we are all products of the Darwinian struggle and nothing more. Whatever claim we have to worth and dignity is in our collective advancement since leaving the caves just a few millennia ago and from which, we are told, we began, for the first time, the heroic ascent to our present ‘lofty’ height. Notions of immortality and transcendent individual possibilities are said to be illusions, born of social conditioning and nothing more. On the other side, however, are those who see unlimited capacities in each of us—not excluding personal immortality. Never mind that the human psyche we find today clearly suffers from ancient wounds. The evolutionary scheme is seen by these optimists as far grander, more subtle and, indeed, more sublime than mere “survival of the fittest.”
From this perspective, it seems that most today are enslaved by a shriveled concept of their own identity. Programmed to accept the authority of the dominant scientific/secular/humanist establishment, they have given up on more exalted possibilities within themselves. The ruling—academically rooted—edifice has succeeded in convincing most of us that its formulations are virtually settled matters, well beyond challenge. We are left to play our assigned parts and nothing more.
The writers of Forbidden Religion argue that the underlying logic, or reasonableness, on which the ruling establishment—whether in church, state, or academia—bases its authority is fallacious, if not corrupt and has been so for a long time.
At the heart of the matter appears to be an old dispute over how it is possible to know the truth of anything— which is better, science or religion? It is worth remembering that the distinction between science and religion, so fundamental to our 21st-century point of view, is an entirely modern one born out of the alienation of Western civilization. Only a society which sees a great gulf between what is within and what is without could draw such a sharp distinction between the two. Even quantum physics has demonstrated the lack of separation between observer and that which is observed, yet we stubbornly cling to our cherished, albeit artificial, distinctions.
The ancients did not divide the world in such a way. For them, science and religion were one. It was ultimate truth, not category, that mattered. If their enlightened understanding of the soul was, in fact, actual knowledge, not just faith—of the kind for which the modern world has learned to settle—who can say what kind of science and technology may have developed? Could the study of things like electricity, magnetism, gravity, energy, etc., for example, have grown out of experience with the soul in search of immortality? For us, the natural world, as currently conceptualized, is subject to scientific study, but if we can’t conceptualize it we call it supernatural and consider it—if not hallucination—simply beyond human understanding. Perhaps the ancients were not so constrained. And if, in encounters with their legacy, our arrogant attempts to pigeonhole their handiwork fall short, the fault, it seems, is more likely ours than theirs.
“Knowledge,” it has been said, “is power.” We have also heard that “a little knowledge is a dangerous thing” (emphasis on ‘little’). The important question is, it seems to us: what is ‘knowledge’ anyway? Or—to take a cue from neurotic contemporary thought—does it even exist?
For many great and ancient spiritual traditions, gnosis or knowledge of some sort—self-knowing, truth-knowing, love-knowing, etc.—is ‘a’ goal, if not ‘the’ goal, of the life. And yet Western culture, it seems to us, has come to question the very possibility of knowing anything with certainty, least of all, the answers to ultimate questions of truth— Who are we?. Where did we come from?. What is our purpose? etc. The issue, of course, is not whether there is such a thing as truth, but rather—whatever it may be—how capable are we of apprehending it? In fact, from Slaughterhouse Five to Clockwork Orange, from Catcher in the Rye to Rebel Without a Cause, countless contemporary myths have made disputing the capacity of humankind to understand truth into a kind of heroism. From psychoanalysis to existentialism, from situation ethics to political correctness, the main effect of today’s thought has been to undermine the authority that goes with true knowledge. Hamlet-like we are left to wonder if we should ‘be’ or not ‘be.’
On such issues, science—at least the kind that dominates civilization today—does us little good. The best an honest empirical method can hope to achieve is an indication of probabilities. Nowhere to be found in the halls of academia is pure knowing, the kind that comes with what philosopher Theodore Roszak once called “rhapsodic declaration.” Present in copious quantities, though, is despair.
When, a few centuries ago, we decided to free ourselves from the corrupt priesthood of the Dark Ages and to turn to what we thought was a more enlightened way of deciding things, we believed we were getting closer to true knowing. Ironically, what we got in the bargain was ‘doubt,’ and to replace old superstitions came a new kind of fear. Instead of hellfire we got the void. It has taken a while for the full implications to sink in, but who can question that a widespread hunger for certitude now threatens to overwhelm civilization?
Sadly, that unrequited longing has already taken many beyond the brink of madness and into the abyss. And, into the knowledge vacuum created by our corrupt scientific priesthood has rushed a multitude of false priests and charlatans promising the true wine of spiritual knowledge but delivering a plethora of poisons—from genocide to jihad. Whether Adolph Hitler or Osama Bin Laden, the pied pipers of hell—by exploiting the legitimate human desire for ultimate answers—have continued to ensnare the unwary masses.
Ironically, at the dawn of the 21st century, one relic of 19th-century thinking continues to maintain its grip on modern thinking. Still dancing its strange kabuki ritual on the public stage is something which may be reasonably called the cult of ‘reductionism.’
This archaic philosophy, also known, ironically, as logical positivism, promoted materialism and doctrines such as social Darwinism, behaviorism, Marxism, even phrenology (a system claiming character can be understood by measurements of the skull) along with many other discredited notions, which once insisted that the universe could be explained in simple terms fully transparent to conventional science. To its exponents, the cosmos worked something like a giant pinball machine with objects colliding and careening about in ways which were inherently understandable to the science of the day. The logical positivists, of course, had little use for metaphysics, spirituality, or invisible forces in general and they certainly would not have cared much for quantum physics. Long written off by more discriminating minds as naive, at best, the reductionist conceit was largely replaced by somewhat deeper and more subtle notions, promoted by thinkers such as Jung or Einstein. Nevertheless, like Count Dracula, the militant reductionist way of thinking has clung stubbornly to its twilight existence.
Today it still maintains considerable influence over the thinking of much of academia, politics and the media. The bolder of the breed have even set themselves up as a virtual priestcraft of professional ‘debunkery’ pretending to expose the ‘fallacies’ and ‘quackery’ which threaten their most cherished assumptions—weirdly echoing the Dominican inquisitors of an even darker time. Their task is aided, in no small measure, by widespread public ignorance of the actual facts involved. Other, more subtle preachings of this primitive belief system can be found in current science news.
Here research community findings are offered to explain away the evidence for concepts which are anathema to the materialist reductionists—e.g., belief in the paranormal is said to arise solely out of genetic predisposition; near-death experience is a brain anomaly; God is a sub-atomic particle, etc.
Self-styled skeptic Michael Shermer, author of Why People Believe Weird Things, argues in a piece for Scientific American that “Smart people believe weird things because they are skilled at defending beliefs they arrived at for non-smart reasons.” By “weird,” Mr. Shermer is referring to notions with which he disagrees or is incapable of understanding; and since “smart people” admittedly espouse them, he has been forced to find a way either to trash them or to own up to his own failings. Not surprisingly, he has chosen the former.
Like a slow-witted child, the unrepentant reductionist has deduced that the cart is propelling the horse—not the other way around.
There are hopeful signs though. Indeed, something in our collective psyche may have been shaken loose by the shock of 9/11 and its aftermath, forcing us to think about things which for a long time had been almost ignored or forgotten. In the face of looming threats to life itself, the search for meaning and the real purpose in life, for many, has taken on a new urgency and, consequently, we have become less tolerant of the shams and scams which in less turbulent times could be foisted upon us with impunity. Such changes do not bode well for the merchants of illusion who have flourished in the twilight.
It is clear that philosophies and scientific paradigms which limit the possibilities of the human soul also reflect great corruption at the top of the idea establishment. From this quarter has come a multitude of cheats and ploys calculated to align us all with discredited world views—or what might be called false religions.
‘Scientifically’ derived doctrines, though, declaring that we are but animals—mere accidents of nature for whom destiny is a meaningless illusion—seem no longer to awe the people or to empower these self-anointed “custodians of ultimate truth.” And, notwithstanding frantic efforts to prolong their tenure at the top, a corrupt ‘scientific’ priest-hood—out of touch with its own divinity—finds the emptiness of its official pronouncements becoming clear to all and its departure from the dais of authority inevitable.
The recent, best-selling novel, Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code, has brought massive and, from the orthodox viewpoint, unwelcome, attention to a number of topics seldom considered by the general public. To the extent that the result may constitute some sorely needed education, we, of course, applaud. It is well past the day when some of the most crucial parts of the suppressed history of Western civilization be shouted from the housetops. Any secret agenda of Leonardo da Vinci or his brethren is certainly well worth unraveling. However, to the extent that Brown has, in our view, misrepresented many of the matters which he covers, we are not so happy. It seems unfortunate that the multitudes who are discovering the esoteric realm for the first time are, in our opinion, poorly served.
To suggest, for example, that the Holy Grail is a specific person or even a bloodline is, it seems, an inadequate and shallow interpretation of a truly profound mystery. It is, to say the least, reductionist and materialistic, if not idolatrous—missing the sublime point made by great sages and saints of East and West that “the kingdom of Heaven is within you (read, ‘all of us’).” Certainly Parsifal and his fellow knights were required to learn that lesson well or fall short in their quest for the Grail. The Buddhists have a saying “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him,”—the point being: don’t identify your liberation with any external physical being: look within.
We have no doubt that, in the pursuit of power, the corrupted institutions of this planet have indeed played the games which Brown describes (this book, in fact, details quite a few of them), but theirs, fortunately, is not the ultimate game and that—for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see—is written between the lines of all the sacred, albeit forgotten, texts.
Realizing that, in the development of our civilization, the divine feminine has been rejected and trampled underfoot is essential, but, it seems to us, equally important to understand that the keys to her rescue are within us all (not just a secret elite). The divine feminine within indeed needs to be brought into harmony with our masculine elements where it can be raised well beyond the beginning stage. When such elevation is ardently and honestly pursued, say the ancient wisdom teachings, the life energies will rise, like sap in spring, up the spinal stalk (uniting masculine and feminine polarities at every level) causing all of the chakras to blossom, eventually culminating in the unfolding of the “thousand-petaled lotus” in the crown and a new birth in the new earth of infinity.
That, we suspect, is true enlightenment and the goal of evolution. There’s a lot more to uniting and raising the father and mother energies within us than fertility rites. Like the seven blind men and the elephant, though—where each attempts to use his own limited experience to describe something virtually indescribable—we usually interpret according to our lights and if we’ve lost sight of our own immortality, procreation may look like the best thing we have going.
Nevertheless, the quest for truth cannot and should not ever be abandoned. Far from it. We do believe, however, that the goal be pursued more sanely, wisely and less fanatically.
And, for those lost in the meaningless sea of contemporary life who yet seek to navigate past the pirate coves and into the safe harbor of true gnosis, it is worth remembering that anyone claiming special knowledge of such things and seeking the authority that goes with it, is subject to challenge and to being required, among other things, to show his real fruits.
Or, to put it another way, when it comes to evaluating truth, the proof is in the pudding. Nothing else has quite the flavor of the real thing.