Copyright Hank Wesselman, 2002.
It is no news to anyone in the Western World that increasing numbers of people are leaving our mainstream religions in droves.
What is news is that this is not an atheistic movement. Quite the contrary. A wide-spread spiritual reawakening is taking place--one that is cutting across socioeconomic levels of achievement and status, one that is transcending cultural, political, and ethnic boundaries as well.
This social movement is intensely democratic and appears to be made up of people who hold a set of beliefs and values that differ from those of the general public. This new belief complex is quietly, yet definitively, gaining acceptance among increasing numbers of well-informed and well-connected individuals, many of whom are in professional and social positions from which they can influence the larger society's ideas and trends.
The number of people involved is not known with certainty, but 14 years of social research in the United States by demographer Paul Ray, PhD., has shown that more than 50 million Americans may fall into this category, representing more than 25% of the adult population. This is not a small number, and it appears to be growing. Ray's analysis suggests that we Westerners have arrived at a point in our history in which our prevailing mythologies are not working so well any more. The 50 million among us know, without being told, that it is time to create a 'new story', a new cultural myth, in which we synthesize a whole new set of ways of seeing ourselves and our society, as well as our place in the greater scheme of things.
Ray's survey has revealed that the citizens involved are socially-concerned, environmentally-aware, and spiritually-focused creative people, who are carriers of more positive ideas and values than in any previous period of history. The ever-increasing numbers of these 'cultural-creatives' know with absolute certainty that if we continue to do business as usual, Western Civilization may well collapse, taking the rest of the world with it. This awareness is producing a growing sense of urgency, an existential angst, accompanied by an insistence on social, political, and economic reform that will benefit everyone, not just the powerful and the privileged.
Anthropologists might call this a new kind of cultural revitalization movement and observe that such a shift in the dominant cultural pattern of a society happens only once or twice in a thousand years. This one is occurring during a period of ever-accelerating social change, enabled by a high technology and a world-wide communication system unlike any ever seen before. This suggests that the shift has already spread far beyond the boundaries of the Western World, and may, in fact, be happening on a planetary scale.
1.The belief that everything and everyone is part of a pattern and thus interconnected.
2. The belief in the existence of an alternate reality, often referred to as the 'other world', the 'spirit world', the 'dreamtime', or simply, 'the sacred' by the traditional peoples. Modern mystics often refer to it as 'nonordinary reality'.
3.The belief in the ability of some individuals to achieve transcendent states of consciousness in which it becomes possible to enter into this alternate reality for problem-solving and the healing of self and others. This belief is usually accompanied by a strong desire to personally experience the alternate reality.
4. The belief in the existence of spirit helpers and spirit teachers who reside in the alternate reality.
5. The belief that everything, both living and inanimate, is imbued with its own personal supernatural essence or soul. This includes the certainty that everything everywhere is aware and thus 'minded' to some degree.
6. The belief in the existence of an impersonal supernatural power or vital force that is highly dispersed throughout the Universe, but which can be highly concentrated in certain places, objects, and living beings as life-force.
7. The belief in a personal energy body around and within which the physical body is formed. This energetic aspect can be perceived by those with psychic awareness as an aura, and modern mystics know that it can be enhanced through centers located within it--the chakras and meridians in Eastern thought.
1. Modern mystics hold a strong concern for social justice and the quality of life at all levels of society, both nationally and internationally.
2. Social tolerance, individualism, and spiritual freedom are highly valued ideals.
3. Strong support is felt for women's issues as well as the safety and well-being of children and the elderly. The rebuilding of families, neighborhoods, and communities are seen as major areas of concern, and human relationships are perceived to be of more importance than material gain.
4. Spiritual, mental-emotional, and physical balance and harmony are seen as critical to the well-being of the individual, the family, the society, the business firm, the nation-state, and the planetary community as a whole. Accordingly, it is understood that humans must live their lives in ways that contribute to this balance, rather than following lifestyles or pursuing goals that create its opposite.
5. Modern mystics are environmentally savvy. The survival of the environment and by association, the human species, is number one on their list. They carry a deep respect for Nature and are seriously concerned with stopping corporate polluters, reversing greenhouse warming, and discovering the limits to short-term growth so that the world community can achieve the long-term ecological sustainability upon which the future of humanity depends.
6. Accordingly, the value of simple, natural living is seen as a high ideal.
7. Modern mystics tend to hold strong feelings of disaffection for Western allopathic medicine. These concerns are being greatly enhanced by the increasingly negative effects on the quality of healthcare being introduced by the business-oriented and profit-motivated Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs).
8. While all are very much aware of Western Medicine's often miraculous achievements, most of us have strong interests in alternative and preventative healthcare modalities (holistic, shamanic, transpersonal, herbalist, acupuncture, ayurvedic, and meditative, to name only a few). These therapies are seen as 'adjuncts to' rather than as 'replacements for' Western Medicine.
9. No one today can deny that the world's social, political, economic, and religious problems are reaching critical mass. Modern mystics believe that the ultimate solutions to all our problems will be achieved through the current spiritual reawakening as it progresses from the personal to the global. They know that it has the potential to propel humanity into the next phase of its evolution as a more aware life form with more expanded abilities.
10. Finally, virtually all who hold these beliefs and values are seekers of the direct, transformative experience of transcendence, and it is really this that defines us as mystics.
In summation, modern mystics are engaged in intensive, personal quests for spirituality, meaning, and transcendence. Although most tend not to be affiliated with organized religions, most profess beliefs in some form of supernatural god-like being or consciousness, and Jesus of Nazareth is regarded as a spirit teacher of great power, whether or not the spiritual seeker is psychologically Christian.
The members of this growing social movement are searching for ways to organize their lives in a personally more satisfying manner. Paul Ray's study suggests that we should take hope, for we are traveling in the company of an enormous number of allies who are everywhere, in every community, and at every level of society, revealing that this steadily-escalating social phenomenon has all the appearances of a spiritual revolution.
Let the media, the politicians, the multinational corporations, and the social analysts take heed. The sheer number of people involved suggests that the modern mystical movement, of which the so-called New Age is a part, is not a fad. Rather, a true Transformational Community is emerging, one whose beliefs, values and trends are already in the process of shifting the cultural norms of Western Society.
The majority believe that the individuals involved in this movement are the 'seed people' who may determine the shape of the world's spiritual orientation and practice for much of the next 2000 years. If true, the history of the planet will be profoundly and inescapably changed by the spiritual resurgence going on in the Western world. The results will be felt at every level of society, in every country, and will, by association, determine much of the politics and individual lifeways of the 21st Century.