November 29, 2004

Mark's Question

Posted at November 29, 2004 11:08 PM in Spirituality .

Mark Stavish asked me a question that he's working on as part of a project.

If you are interested, feel free to comment (I'm posting this to both of my journals so my friends on Livejournal.com will probably be the ones responding).

"Has Western Esotericism succeeded? On a scale of 1 (worst) to 10 (best) where would you rate and and why?"

Part of his comment to me (knowing my Tantric Buddhist bent), on his own opinion, is as follows:

"When I look at how poorly it is understood, and the massive flow of people and resources to Eastern studies, I question the success of Western esotericism. The simple fact that we have 'authors' rather than (genuine recognized) adepts in the inner sense is one issue. Coupled with this is the cult of the personality (rather than the cult of the guru, or traditional guru yoga) that seems to accompany it."

My answer to his initial question was the following (in part):

"Overall, looking at the landscape, I would give things, at best, someone like a 3 or a 4.

The tradition is fragmented. We have no public teachers or recognized authorities that speak to our culture as a whole. We have authors or leaders of fringe groups or cults (and, from a mainstream point of view, we are fringe). The tradition, as a whole, is either forgotten or actively disrespected as ancient superstitions.

On our own side, no one can articulate a point of view for what Western Esotericism is that doesn't sound like someone from the 17th century talking about the nature of the world. We are backward (in time) looking for what we are instead of forward looking to what we could become.

In my mind, there is a kernel to our system that focused on changing consciousness and ways of relating to a living world that aren't as empty and bankrupt as the modern, consumer-focused vision of the world. We need people to step up and enunciate a vision, even if only to small groups of people, of what we really are that doesn't mean being seeming crackpots in this world.

Eastern teachers, even though their ideas may actually be quite odd when examined by rather normal people, are afforded a high amount of respect for the seriousness that they present themselves with and their dedication to their path. They have a vocation and they are teaching widely, even if it is often shallow in effect with a lot of people. Meanwhile, we have people dressed in black (which I do, often!) who meet with similar odd people and think that they are a revolution. We should be inspiring, if not everyone, at least artists and thinkers."

In regards to his comment about the flow of people to Eastern studies instead, I said:

"I would tend to agree.

Personally, I would have no issues with small and dedicated groups that aren't very public doing the Work if I thought that more than 10% of the same people would still be there a decade later. As a whole, magicians are hobbyists who eventually get bored. Where are the profound insights?

There are elements in the pagan community that do much better with this but, as a whole, they suffer from a lot of the same problems. It's hard to be taken seriously when people embrace acting and seeming to be crackpots. In academia, however, there are more and more pagans and such working in religious studies and anthropology. These people, acting as explainers and sometimes apologists, seem to be starting to make a difference with the academic crowds when it comes to perception."

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