letter from the past
Editors and Translators:
is a letter I wrote a year and a half ago to a young writer
who wrote about the spiritual life of the generation X kids
now in their early thirties. The book " Virtual Faith "
by Tom Beudoin is interesting. It links the recent cultural
past of the 60's with the digital 90's. I expanded the discussion
in this letter. Harvest is already becoming a bit mythic even
I read your book Virtual Faith. I'm a late boomer, 41 and I've
spent alot of time with xer's and yers. I'm a writer and i dropped
out of society for 91/2 years and spent alot of time in monasteries
of many different kinds of religions. I was looking for the
essence of the spiritual path and have also been abroad five
times. I'm a writer and I graduated from UC Berkeley in '83.
My first book " Harvest of Gems " is now on the web.
www.yotko.com/scars/harvest/gems.htm Take a look. I'm a Tibetan
Buddhist and I like your pioneering style. But here are my reactions
to your book. Yes, Xers are definitely trying to find spirituality,
but they cannot avoid age old lineages. The old mystical schools
have alot to offer. Why re-invent the wheel. Yes, xers are now
going for a radical multiplex and porous awareness, but the
entire century has been moving in this direction. There is a
continuity between Picasso, Kerouac, and kurt Cobain.
The entire century has seen a process of cultural dissolution.
Freud and Jung led the way as Western civilization began to
fragment. Picasso, Joyce, and Stravinsky mirrored this process
well. Then the Beats and Hippies continued this process. Drugs,
shamanism, and Oriental mind sciences reflected the new multi-level
awareness. Xers and yers are now taking this heritage into multimedia
and cyberspace. Nothing exists in a vacuum. We're heading for
a soft-wired awareness, instead of a hard-wired one. Raw psychic
flux is now becoming the foundation for a new cultural and symbolic
yoga. This is a radical departure for Western civilization.
But not for the East. Buddhism gives one a good handle of where
The global village is fast on its way to becomming a global
brain and then later a global third-eye. This collaging has
always been going on, but the pace is now breakneck. In the
past like in late hellenistic times people were mixing all kinds
of religions. The collage was often shallow, but it heralded
a religious skake-out. Christianity won. Now we're heading for
another shake-out. Don't ask me what the winner will be. it's
too early to tell. Variety is always around, but usually a winner
takes over and then get's corrupted. Then hidden variety creates
another religious winner for the next big cycle. It's important
to have a bigger context in mind, not just in art history, but
also religious history. We've kinda been here before. But in
a different way.
I see you like Eliade, " Trial by Labyrinth " is one
of his best books. You might like :
Religion in history by SGF Brandon.
The God-possesed by Jean Lacarriere.
Two great books on Early Christian history. The desert fathers,
I also think you could brush up on your Buddhist history:
Civilized Shamans by Geoff Samuel
It's about Tibetan history but the religious dynamics can be
applied to any religion.
Swami Vivakenanda's the four yogas are a superb grid to measure
any religion worth its salt.
Also Arnold Toynbee's " A historian's view of religion
is a superb work of comparative religion. It blows the whistle
on the accidents of culture that get attached to spiritual truth
and then harden into dogma creating an opaque film over the
original spiritual revelation.
Every generation has to renew deep truths and not just the xers.
Yes, institutions can be an obstacle, but if you can find saints
that pop out of these institutions anyway, then you see that
it's all just outer forms covering hidden and essential truths.