Making Love Rightly
Thank you for your earnest and sincere treatment of my interview [Barry Long, "I Am a Tantric Master"]. The magazine is indeed a bumper issue and, as usual, excellently designed and produced.
I'm writing to you in anticipation that people are likely to miss a fundamental point in our interview, although I repeated it several times. The subject matter of sexuality will probably obscure this detail.
The point I am endeavoring to emphasize is that in my teaching there is God, or truth, out
of existence and God, or love, in
existence. Anyone who is truly God-realized has
realized this extraordinary state of being, which, because it is a state of consciousness, is outside the existence of all form and appearance.
This realization in the first instance is the most important of all possible realizations, for it is the realization of the truth behind the universe and all existence. I call this the transcendental realization—in that it transcends the senses and all that is conceivable—and in my own case it occurred over three remarkable weeks in December 1968 in London. Every aspect of my teaching is the endeavor to impart the rudiments of self-denial and the love of honesty and truth, which are essential preparations if this mighty realization is to occur. All teachings of every master and teacher, as indeed is all life, are toward this end, whether it is known or not known.
The motivation of anyone who has realized the transcendental is to help others to do the same, or, according to the teacher's inspiration, to work in some way to help eliminate the ignorance and misery of humanity who can listen. In my own case, I observed that the most misery and unhappiness on earth is caused by man and woman having forgotten how to love one another. This love in its reality, I realized, is God in
existence. And this seems to be an even rarer realization than that of the transcendental truth out
of existence. Nonetheless the forgetfulness or avoidance of true love is still the greatest tragedy that anyone can observe in the lives of children, adults, and in our decaying society. Surely the observance of this can't be just my radical insight and teaching. Surely it is the truth.
My congratulations on the straightforwardness and lack of bias in your introduction. One notion I would like to correct is where you say that in my teaching "the primary spiritual practice is making love rightly." The primary spiritual practice, as described above, is self-denial, giving and honesty practiced over a long period out of an inner perception of rightness and goodness. No one can "make love rightly" without this essential and ceaseless practice, just as no one can realize the Most High out of existence without the same one-pointed way of life. People may think they are making love rightly, but without this dire self-abnegation they are kidding themselves.
Byron Bay, Australia
I read your recent issue with interest, particularly Miranda Shaw's comments on tantra
in Buddhism ["Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Tantra but Were Afraid to Ask"] and her reference to my own experiences with Kalu Rinpoche. Having given a great deal of thought to these matters over more years than I care to mention, I was befuddled by her explanation about "great masters" who somehow along the way "forgot" to deal with their sexuality, all the while gaining "great master" status. Her rationalization that there are such men who have "neglected" or "ignored" their sexuality is tantamount to saying they neglected or ignored their own bodies, and with them, desire, the understanding of whose nature, if I remember correctly, is at the very core of the Buddha's teaching. It therefore begs the question, "great masters" of what? Not Buddhism, presumably.
As for Margot Anand ["You Have to Do It All!"] and Barry Long, call me an old cynic, but five-hour orgasms and five adoring women may be proof to them that they have attained something wonderful, but personally I would have been far more impressed if they had spent their spare time quietly campaigning to abolish the child sex-slave trade in some of the world's poorest countries rather than droning on about their marvelous sexual capacities, "God-given powers" and the gift of an orgasm as a "contribution to the transformation of the planet." Please!
Great sex is fine, and good luck to those who mutually feel they benefit from it, but it's time we were spared the "great masters" and the "enlightenment in one lifetime" talk, along with the other grandiose claims that always accompany the promotion of tantra,
and which, by the way, inevitably attract the innocent and vulnerable. Harmless it may all be for those individuals, like Anand, who believe they have found a "shortcut" to the Divine (whatever that means), but let's not kid ourselves: the potential for unscrupulous, narcissistic and power-mad "masters" basking in celebrity, creating careers out of other people's uncertainties and peddling dubious philosophies that I believe have long passed their "sell-by date," is enormous. One thing's for sure—they'll
be the ones who'll be laughing (blissfully of course)—all the way to the bank.
Not having ever heard of Andrew Cohen until a week ago, I bought the recent issue of What Is Enlightenment?
after attending a talk he gave in Boulder. Your presentation of the various views on the topic of sex and spirituality was
interesting, thought-provoking and expansive in a way that for me connected, further validated and expressed my belief that love and truth make the issue of sex go beyond being any particular issue at all.
I was touched by Father Thomas Keating's interview ["The Heart of the Matter"]. His words were so giving, so straight from the heart and sincere in humility, knowledge and acceptance—so warm and loving. In my opinion, he was right on the mark about the "right use" of sexuality (an integrated expression of love, affection and warmth) being virtuous and essential, and in its sincerest and knowing form, present continuously in all interactions with others, ourselves and all aspects of daily experiences of life.
Thank you for producing a well-thought-out and giving magazine. Also, thank you for pricing your magazine so reasonably. It says a lot.
What about Homosexuality?
I recently purchased the latest issue of What Is Enlightenment?,
dedicated to the relationship between sex and spirituality. This is the first time that I came across your magazine and I could not resist purchasing it as I found the name and the subject matter quite provocative.
A letter to the editor in this issue mentioned a hope that there might be at least one article about homosexuality and spirituality. The editor replied with a note expressing hope that the issue would appeal to everyone regardless of sexual preference. It is my sincere feeling that the editors failed greatly and as a result I will be very reluctant to look into any future or past issues of WIE.
The articles that promoted sexuality as a way to enlightenment were very obviously slanted towards heterosexuality and female sexuality. Only the articles about celibacy could appeal to everyone. I find this very disappointing in an age where male sexual healing and enlightenment is such an important issue and integral to our development (and survival) as a species. By disregarding same-sex spirituality WIE
is almost saying that you have to be heterosexual in order to reach enlightenment through sex. I am exploring new spirituality and find that this attitude is more common throughout the spiritual community than people would like to accept. It is an issue that is rarely talked about in alternative media and events (at least in the UK). Every so often I even come across individuals "on a spiritual path" who actually believe that homosexuality goes against the laws of the universe and that AIDS is a result of this.
Homosexuality has been very important to our social development and I had hoped that WIE
would explore how important it is to our spirituality as well. In a social context, one could argue that the homosexual presence has contributed greatly to sexual freedom in the latter half of this century. Nonreproductive sexual energy has also contributed greatly to the arts and culture of Western civilization. In certain contemporary tribal communities homosexuality has been ritualized into a young man's initiation into the world of sexuality. Even in Western society this is quite often an unspoken tradition. I have come across Indian prints of homosexual tantric
positions, so it was of importance to Eastern spirituality. Why is it not of importance to WIE?
I am very surprised that a magazine called What Is Enlightenment?
with a whole issue devoted to sexuality would deal with this subject as a brief Editor's Note. Perhaps you should produce an issue called "What Is What Is Enlightenment?"
and seriously look at the kinds of messages you are sending out.
Guy La Fayette
The Laws of God
I recently discovered WIE
on my newsstand and eagerly read every word from cover to cover. Having now subscribed and ordered all
back issues, I have a wonderful
feast of reading to look forward to. However, I do find there is a thread of confusion and apparent support for items of contradiction in the articles I have read so far, because you seem to support the popular "feel-good" philosophy. "The Promise of Perfection" by Andrew Cohen was excellent. But then he spoiled it by giving his stamp of approval to the personal gratifications of my fellow Australian Barry Long.
What is the relationship between sex and spirituality? Unless we are continuing to demean the word "spirituality," there can be no relationship. Like so much else that passes for spirituality, "sexual contact" belongs totally in the realms of corporeality and material expression. But I suppose this raises the argument about whether anything in this corporeal world can be related to the spiritual realms. Suffice to recall that the Gospels tell us "the Devil is Prince of this world, not God," and that only the Devil could have offered the world to Jesus as a gift (Luke 4:6). Not to mention Romans 8:6-9, which states that "those in carnal mind are not subject to the laws of God, and cannot please him."
During my sixty years of search and study, I have established that all true masters give three basic requirements that hold true for all spiritual journeys. These are: 1) total nonattachment to corporeality and demise of the ego, 2) cessation of negative input from all sources, including animal foods and carnal thoughts, and 3) a one-pointed concentration on the love and desire for communion with a divine level of consciousness. The only disagreement seems to be on the definitions of the starting point of the journey and of the ultimate goal, or state of divine enlightenment, that tempts us to leave where we seem to be. To obtain peace and freedom we must
escape from this ridiculously contradictory and painful world of material expression.
Not Worth the Warp
Thanks for a thought-provoking, blood-pressure-raising issue of WIE!
I am sure you will receive communications from many who support the claims and practices of the self-identified "tantric
master" Barry Long. Let me hasten to say that I will not be among those people! I found the article disturbingly reminiscent of a male attitude which, taken to even more ludicrously arrogant extremes, can inflict damage in a woman that is more insidious and difficult to erase than outright abuse. How do I know this? I experienced something very like it for sixteen years. It has taken twelve years of insistent work and dedicated effort to lessen the effects of my association with a self-proclaimed "spiritual prophet," a man making claims quite similar to those of your "tantric
master." I have been strictly and purposefully celibate for nearly twelve years. I dived into celibacy with a distinct feeling of relief and a sense that on one front at least, the exploitation was over. Once I had taken back the use of my body, I could work on recovering a sense of emotional, mental and (yes) spiritual liberty. I don't see why any
woman would deliberately place herself with a character like Mr. Long. It just isn't worth the warp.
On another note, it was very interesting to read the confessions of your celibates and to peruse the open letter written by the female celibate ["Here's Looking at You"]. I'm curious about something, however: Were your researchers not able to find any long-term female celibate practitioners? Not all of us are nuns (Catholic or Buddhist), you know! Some of us have no
religious practice or identifiable "spiritual" practice at all, yet we are intensely committed to various ways of living which one could call our "path."
I enjoyed this issue from cover to cover and I hope you'll do another issue on this hot topic soon, and do more with the celibate aspect of it! Kudos for a wonderful issue, and keep up the good work.
Dr. Laurene Peterson
The Truth About Love
Thank you for the last issue of What Is Enlightenment?,
and thank you especially for the interview you published with Barry Long about this subject. I am in the teaching of Barry Long and have attended several of his seminars. Yet the very good questions of Andrew Cohen bring Barry to reveal new aspects and clarifications about him being a tantric
master. This is of great value to me. Thank you also for publishing the answers from Sally and Jade. It is invaluable to me as a woman to get this confirmation of what I already know to be the truth about love.
I had an immediate and visceral reaction to your recent interview with Barry Long when I read this statement: "No, they don't teach. Woman's job is not to teach." When I hear someone make statements to the effect that "Women are supposed to ___," or "Men are supposed to ___," alarm bells go off.
Long continues to rattle off a long list of attributes of woman. I'm not objecting to the fact that women can possess these attributes, but to the fact that he is defining women by them. Long's attitude toward women seems old-fashioned. Women are not supposed to get up and speak in public? I thought the days when a woman was supposed to stay at home and hide behind her man were over. Did I spend the last thirty-five years getting advanced education, working in a professional capacity and building my self-confidence in vain?
The second "alarm" came when I read that Long refused to let you speak directly to the women who had had relationships with him ["Sally and Jade"]. If he truly respected these women, and women in general, he would have had the confidence to let the women themselves make that decision! This was too much for me to bear. I can't imagine being in a relationship with a man who took it upon himself to make such a decision for me. Perhaps he was uncomfortable with what you might discover about his true nature through contact with them?
About the debate as to whether celibacy is a holier path: Most people of mature years (if they will admit it in our hedonistic social climate) have experienced both periods of sexual activity and periods of celibacy. Do I feel more spiritual and holy when I am celibate? Not really. Do I feel less spiritual when I have a physical relationship? No. The status of whether or not I engage in a particular activity does not change the "me" that is constantly evolving and growing and building understanding.
It's better to focus not on the states of celibate vs. noncelibate but on where your mind is focused. Can you see things clearly, or are your emotions driven by obsessions over which you exert little control? Do you experience life's joy or do you only feel trapped by repression and expectations? (Today's expectation that people should be sexually active is just as repressive as the former expectation that people should not be!)
Thanks for a thought-provoking issue. I'm looking forward to more to come.
East Greenbush, New York
Love of God
or Love of Bod?
I've just read your Spring/Summer 1998 issue and I must say that everything I ever learned about God and the illusory energy, maya,
has been contradicted by the personalities you selected to enlighten us. You have replaced love of God with love of blood, mucus, phlegm, urine, pus, stool and bile—in other words, "love of bod." I honestly feel that you should change the name of your magazine to "What Enlightenment Is Not."
Barry Long and Margot Anand have done a great disservice to humanity. Just looking at Barry's face I can see that his energy is being drained. The seminal fluid can enrich the brain as long as it is not spilled uselessly. The organ of regeneration is designed to create progeny. As soon as we try to exploit the body for sensual pleasure, we come under the grips of the Lord's illusory energy.
Sex may sell your magazine but God doesn't buy it. For deluding the innocent public, you're certainly condemned. The authorities in your periodical haven't the slightest clue about the identity of God. Becoming enamored of a woman is the trick of maya.
As long as we are addicted to enjoying the opposite sex we shall continue our earthly bondage. We shall suffer greatly for our indulgence and have to repeat the vicious cycle of repeated birth and death.
In the Bhagavad Gita, Chapter 7, verse 11, the Lord says that He is
that sex life which is not contrary to religious principles. This implies engaging in sex for the purpose of begetting good children. Tantric
singles clubs are not what we would call religious. If a man is not religious, he is no better than an animal. An animal knows only eating, sleeping, sex and defense. If we cannot rise above these four animal propensities then we are virtually two-legged animals.
If you really want to enlighten yourself and others, many should hear from real authorities who have actually realized God. Otherwise, if you just want to sell magazines, you should include a few colorful, erotic centerfolds. May God help you to do the former. Wishing you better days ahead.
Life Is One
Thank you for your issue on the relationship between sex and spirituality. I like your magazine very much. I like very much what Andrew Cohen writes as well as the interviews with Barry Long, Miranda Shaw and Rabbi Zalman Schachter.
As for Swami Chidananda, I agree with him except when he says, "Sex is a process we share with the entire animal kingdom." I don't feel this is negative, and I don't feel that the animal kingdom is inferior to humans. Life is one. We are animals whether we like it or not, and being able to really share something with the animal world is great, not bad or sinful. And I totally agree with what he says about tantra
, except when he rejects it on the grounds that "for one in a million it may click." Cannot the same be said about total celibacy? But Swami Chidananda himself surely is a perfect celibate, and I think he is a saint and admire him very much.
André Van Lysebeth
It Ain't What You Do
I read with interest your Spring/ Summer 1998 issue of What Is Enlightenment?
Most "New Age" publications wouldn't touch the topic of sex and spirituality with a ten-foot pole. And yet, despite its controversial nature, sex is a very important aspect of the enlightenment process. And by this I mean whether you engage in sex or not, it still is important. I feel you provided enriching insight into this dilemma of whether to have sex or not. The tantra
way and the celibate way are both indeed the extremes or polarities of the sexual spectrum. I feel that both sides presented valid, cogent points of view that justified their respective positions. Yes, Barry Long has found truth, but so has Swami Chidananda. Tantra
and celibacy, taken absolutely, both reach the same point. Yes, you can be awakened through either approach. Like the old song says, "It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it." The conscious reader will recognize that it doesn't matter which way you take. Either one is fine or even a combination or whatever. Duality doesn't care.
Thanks for your fine magazine.
The Courage to Command
In your interview with Miranda Shaw, it is stated that a man "must be willing to touch and ingest every substance discharged by a woman's body."
Of course the obvious question is, why would anyone want to bless or be blessed by their lover in manners considered by most to be unclean? Although sex is discussed by your experts with an intellectual, elitist and even sterile tone, we must address how our society looks upon specific acts of "sexual perversion." Am I to believe that it's more moral when a tantric
master forces or requests her male lover to ingest certain bodily substances than when it's done by a paid professional?
I have found that most of the world's misery comes from two distinct but related sources, the first being that women seem to lack the courage to command. The world abounds with men willing to submit, yet there is a clear lack of women who have embraced the divinity within. Strong women still seek stronger men. The fact that weaker men are not coming into contact with these blessed female substances has led to an enduring and debilitating psychosis among the male gender. The second and most insidious source of human misery lies within the concept of monogamy. Until women can free their men to roam, the human species will be forever damned.
For those who find WIE
gloomy and joke-free, I suggest they reread several of the advertisements in the magazine. Perhaps, also, those who deplore the existence of the ads may find
humor in them, and enjoy the juxtaposition of their patent chicanery with the spiritually serious articles whose publication they are enabling.
I was really disappointed to see that you were showing off about the fact that the über-Material Girl had deigned to admire your magazine and that she had even "offered" to talk to you [Editors' Introduction]. So what? What on earth could she have to say to WIE
that is more important than anybody else, apart from the perils of being obscenely rich and not doing very much with your wealth except to create walls around yourself? If she's going to
really start worrying more about
reality and less about her image, that's fine, but she'll have to prove it by giving at least a few million to a good cause. I've already read about her latest conversion in a recent issue of Vanity Fair,
and while it was mildly interesting in that context, I would be horrified to see such an interview (which would almost certainly be checked for "accuracy" by Herself) in WIE.
The day you feature Madonna Mark II on your cover will be a very sad day indeed.
In short, I'm begging you: please
a celebrity-free zone. Yours on bended knee.
The Veil of the Heart
They say that the mind is the veil of the heart. Andrew Cohen's article on wanting ["The Promise of Perfection"], suggests how the mind operates in order to entrap us in a prison of illusion where true freedom and truth can never be found. Andrew Cohen didn't talk about it much, but the endless source of our suffering is not only in the "wanting." It is also found in the "not wanting," in the pushing away of that which we don't want to face. All of our attractions and aversions are rooted in our separateness, in the fear of an unknown future where we will have to face the prospect either of not possessing that which we feel will give us happiness, or of being deprived of all our beliefs about who we are.
One has to stand outside of one's self and at last be the observer in the play. One has to give up the control of one's mind to the power of one's heart, where the beauty of our nature resides, and where we can intuit that our separateness is the illusion, that our wanting is an addiction that maintains our separateness, and that our love frees us from the boundaries created by our minds and egos.
Sex Isn't Neutral
Thank you for the thoughtful perspectives you published in your latest issue on sex and spirituality. While I agree with many of Andrew Cohen's observations and respect him for directly addressing this important topic, I disagree with his conclusion that sexuality is neutral. This choice of words is particularly unfortunate since "neutral" comes from the same root as "neuter" and implies a castration.
Perhaps it is the resonance between the poles of male and female, positive and negative, that is more important than any fixed position. Perhaps it is also the clarity with which one senses this interface, in all its dynamic complexity, that determines both the nature of the sexual experience and its spiritual qualities.
My conclusion is that sex exists somewhere between the primordial slime and the light of the sun—just as we do ourselves.
The Fastest Path
Thank you for publishing your issue on sex and spirituality. It has inspired me to outline a perspective that addresses the truths, and perhaps, the insufficiency, of both tantra
and spiritual celibacy as currently practiced.
Frankly, the case for celibacy is the easiest to support. Sex, at least when used for procreation or recreation, is unquestionably delusion-producing. The more freely we give reign to our sexual desire, the wilder our projections onto each other, and the greater our sense of desperate dissatisfaction. I would like to suggest that this occurs because we are still using our sexuality based on the assumption that procreation-inspired sexual habits constitute sexuality's only natural use. Just as celibacy leads to an aching longing at times throughout one's life, so sex with the objective of peak orgasm ultimately leaves us with an unsatisfied longing for wholeness. Moreover, as one author correctly put it, "it temporarily kills the Buddha within."
Yet is celibacy the only way to deal with the longing inherent in gender without suffering this separation-producing fallout? What if there were a way to use our sexual desire strictly for enhancing our spiritual vision within our relationships? This is of course what the spiritual sexuality advocates are insisting is possible. Perhaps the reason their results are inconsistent and even frequently disgraceful is that they are still mixing the use of sex for vision-enhancement with sex for recreation/procreation. In practical terms this means failing to distinguish between the objectives of genital orgasm and mystical orgasm.
Mystical orgasm (or "valley orgasm," as the Taoists call it) is a spiritual experience that occurs beyond
all awareness of the body in a moment of perfect stillness. It is a vision-restoring experience of lasting oneness. And it is perhaps significant that the mechanism necessary to achieve it regularly, without igniting separation-producing projections, calls for a use of sexuality that is totally inconsistent
with the use of sex for procreation (i.e., no genital orgasm). Despite their good intentions and inspired vision, many tantrics
could benefit from the uncompromising consistency and integrity of their celibate brothers and sisters.
In view of the hazards we face in our intimate relationships, are the celibates not the wiser to avoid the battleground and continue meditating or praying to promote clear vision and inner peace? Perhaps. Yet an ancient Tibetan Buddhist myth, The Great Stupa
, states that the path of conquering passion through controlled indulgence is the fastest
and most powerful
path, though also the easiest to fall from. Our commitment to transcendence must be total if we wish to use this path, or we are, in fact, better off celibate (as we are less destructive).
An interested reader
Thanks for another great and thought-provoking issue. However, since I am currently writing a book on tantra
, I am a bit disappointed that you only addressed tantra
as a sexual
path to higher consciousness. There are indeed many misconceptions about tantra
, so let's start from the beginning with a literal translation of the word: in Sanskrit "tan" means to liberate and "tra" means inertia or crudeness. Tantra
, then, is the path of liberation from crudeness or stagnation. Tantra
is also not solely the yoga of sex, but as Vimala McClure points out in her book A Woman's Guide to Tantra Yoga,
it is the "yoga of everything." And historically, according to the late tantric
guru Shri Shri Anandamurti (a.k.a. P.R. Sarkar), tantra
originated in India at least seven thousand years ago. As the oldest form of yogic practice it can therefore aptly be described as "the mother of all paths of yoga." The sexual, or left-handed, path is but a small and often misunderstood subbranch within the truly comprehensive cosmology of tantra
. Furthermore, tantra
is an intuitional science, or an empirical path, to spiritual enlightenment, as opposed to a ritualistic, dogmatic, mythic, or translative path, as Ken Wilber terms it. So generically speaking, one could therefore say that all authentic spiritual paths leading to liberation are tantric
For the authentic path of tantra
, which I have studied and practiced for the past twenty-four years both as a celibate and a married person, the sexual energy is the human manifestation of the cosmic creative force of Shakti.
In the human body Shakti
manifests as the force of kundalini,
and the yogi attains enlightenment when this force reaches the crown chakra,
or when Shakti
unites with Shiva
and becomes one in the effulgence of Brahma.
To master this esoteric science, sublimation (not suppression) of sexual energy and love of the divine are key elements. Hence the issue of sexuality is not one of morality but of the balanced use of energy and of the intensity of one's spiritual devotion. Too much indulgence in sex—which I unfortunately think today's "sexual tantra
" consciously or unconsciously promotes—will, in my experience, not light the true fire of ecstatic love needed to embrace the divine Brahma.
The proof's in the pudding, of course, but the historically more authentic path of tantra
, the "middle path," the path of moderation and balance, has many more genuine adepts than what I have seen in today's world of tantric
The discussion of tantra
in your recent issue was limited by the absence of a solid understanding of sexology, and the psychology of revolutionary religious teachers or "prophets." A couple of points:
It is now becoming clear from a variety of sources, especially sexological research and psychotherapy, that sex takes on its deepest meanings within the context of a committed, long-term, loving relationship. I hasten to emphasize that this is not a mere restatement of moralism but is based on actual research and clinical observation. Hence, the claims about sexual enlightenment by people who appear not to be in such relationships are clearly suspect. I suggest that in all future articles a brief but thorough biography of the author or interview subject be appended to assist readers in evaluating the statements made. Credibility rests on how one lives one's entire life, not on having published a book or recruited a following.
Secondly, while What Is Enlightenment?
is clearly committed to a belief in enlightenment and spiritual masters and teachers and so forth, again, scholars have studied such matters and the results are not very supportive of some of the positions taken in your recent issue. My own work, which was a study of the personalities of twenty "prophets" in New Zealand and Australia, while very sympathetic to such figures, nevertheless concluded that they were much too narcissistic to ever enter into an honest and equal relationship with others, and that far from being fulfilled or enlightened beings, they actually needed their followers at least as much as the followers needed them. As honesty, equality and the absence of gross dependency needs are the basics of loving relationships, it is most likely that when these figures speak about or practice tantra
they are merely sexualizing their neuroses (recall Chögyam Trungpa's dictum that "ego can convert anything to its own ends, even spirituality"—to which I would add, "especially spirituality!"). Our capacity for self-deception is infinite, and it is at its greatest among those individuals who have slipped their psychic moorings and are most able to lead us into both light and dark.
Your magazine is wonderful! I have been a spiritual practitioner for years. I am deeply served by the issue on sex and spirituality, and especially Andrew Cohen's "The Promise of Perfection." (What a beautiful young man is this Andrew Cohen.)
Keep it up!
Thank you for the latest issue of WIE—
an excellent magazine and an excellent idea. Andrew Cohen's interview of Barry Long was the most moving and stunningly beautiful thing I have read for a long time. Andrew's sincerity and humility shine through. Thank you to all of you who were involved in bringing this interview to print.
Thank you for WIE
—one of the best journals of its kind on the market, leading one right to the heart of the inquiry in every issue. If I was forced to make a choice of only one magazine out of the many that at present fall through my letterbox, it would without a doubt be yours!
Issue 12 Fall/Winter 1997
No More Platitudes
I found one copy (the only copy there!) of your Fall/Winter 1997 issue ["The Modern Spiritual Predicament"] in a tiny, out-of-the-way shop in Perth—and cried. . . . Finally no platitudes; finally people publicizing that Truth is painful and a very hard road, that enlightenment demands complete release of all preconceptions, that it is not escapism. I literally wept. Australian publications tend to be full of soppy New-Ageisms that pander to soft options (which, of course, are not options) rather than challenge and exploration.
Andrew Cohen's article on the revolution of thinking needed to come to grips with our true internal transformation with the Absolute ["Releasing the Unspeakable Glory of the Absolute"] and Ken Wilber's view that "authentic spirituality does not console the world, it shatters it" ["A Spirituality That Transforms"] made me feel that I was far from alone. Finally someone out there is saying it! Many, many thanks for producing such a publication.
Ken Wilber's statement, "Authentic spirituality is revolutionary. It does not console the world, it shatters it," sounds so authoritative, but it is dead wrong. Real holy men, as opposed to pompous, condescending absolutists like him, both console the world and shatter it. Such people console those in pain and disturb the complacent. While he writes about compassion and acknowledges a positive societal function to religions that focus on "horizontal translation," his concept of transformation lacks tenderness and heart. I happen to be reading Emerson these days, one of the masters he mentions in his article. While his critique of traditional religion is similar to Wilber's, unlike Wilber, Ralph Waldo Emerson is truly brilliant, soulful and finally inclusive in his vision. The tone and simplistic dichotomy in Ken Wilber's essay strengthens the very illusion of separation he so passionately decries.
Alan H. Berkowitz
Los Angeles, California
Let's talk about Ken Wilber and Georg Feuerstein ["To Light a Candle in a Dark Age"], two of the finest minds in esotericism. But what's that all about? Both have been exposed to ultimacy and reality in the form of Adi Da Samraj. But perhaps those lessons of truth and eventuality do not make sense to the intellectual pursuit of mindlessness. This is not a criticism of Ken Wilber or Georg Feuerstein. I love these guys! These two men are filled with insight and elaboration, but after the initial invigoration of mind and its possibilities, I am left tired and aware that real sacrifice has nothing to do with mental preoccupation or experimentation. No matter how subtle or intuitively decorative they are, they are still a bummer!
A Subtle Agenda
I had a funny reaction reading the interview with Deepak Chopra in your Fall/Winter 1997 issue. I started noticing that he was answering very truly and that your interviewer seemed to be frustrated because he did not seem to be giving the proper answers according to her theory, namely that money and New Age is bad. There seemed, in short, to be an agenda—a subtle one. I did not feel that she was picking up on his answers—maybe because it was a car-phone interview? Anyway, it was ironic given the stated aim of your magazine. If you dismiss the New Age because of its commercialized aspects, you ignore the truth in it, namely that this is a time for a return to the sacred.
Anyway, I do enjoy your magazine—especially its earnestness and dedicated seeking, which is something that we in the New Age movement could do with. Many thanks.
Editor, New Age News
Voices of Ignorance
I'm not sure I understand any more what the purpose of WIE
is. When it began it was a platform for Andrew Cohen's teaching and, as such, it served a valuable role. You seem to believe that now it is a "voice of sanity in an insane world," but that's not the way it comes across—to me, at least.
The people you present are generally voices of ignorance whom one can read in any of many New Age-type journals, and what you call your "engagement" with these people consists of questions designed to allow them to present their arguments without putting them on the spot or, in one recent instance—the interview with Deepak Chopra ["The Man with the Golden Tongue"]—one-pointed harassment.
The modern spiritual world may be mad and Andrew Cohen may be one fresh breath in it, but your journal makes that point only on the page or two where Andrew himself speaks.
Congratulations on your Fall/Winter 1997 issue, "The Modern Spiritual Predicament." I thoroughly enjoyed the intellectual rigor of Ken Wilber and Georg Feuerstein. It's just a pity that Craig Hamilton didn't read Wilber's article before interviewing Dr. Laura ["The Conscience of America"]. It might have spared him, and us, her mindless, finger-wagging moralizing. She is the perfect example of what Wilber refers to as a "translational" religious person—complete with belief system, priesthood and holy book.
One thing Wilber didn't mention was that the translationally religious always come with an iron-clad moral code. Its purpose is to give those who don't know themselves the comfort and security of a set of rules that tells them how to act in any given situation. This is fine for those who are at this stage of their evolution. However, I fail to see its relevance in a magazine such as yours. I assume that your main interest is in transformation. If that's the case, then rather than using Dr. Laura as a convenient mouthpiece to take a swipe at the New Age (which is just pitting one belief system against another), it would perhaps have been more appropriate to explore the question, "How do we know God's law when there is no holy book, no priesthood and no belief system?"
Many thanks for your Fall/Winter 1997 issue. I've read the main articles and I found it gives some grasp of the spiritual scene in the States, of which I often hear rumors but don't really comprehend. In general I find it difficult reading most spiritual magazines, but yours is quite refreshing. What amazes me are the ads. Do people really buy all this stuff?
My compliments to all of those who put this magazine together. We put out our own small newsletter so I realize the work that goes into your first-class production is enormous. Hats off to all of you. May your work prosper and be of help to many folk in this wild and most interesting of times.
Amaravati Buddhist Monastery
Issue 10 Fall/Winter 1996
Daughter of the Goddess
Though I know I'm very late to the party and only just finished reading your typically marvelous issue on women's spirituality ["Women, Enlightenment and the Divine Mother"], I am compelled to respond to your provocative interview with Z. Budapest ["Daughter of the Goddess"].
Georg Feuerstein's article on his experience of the divine feminine ["The Divine Mother: A Personal and Philosophical Quest"] was uniquely lyrical and lucid in describing the subtle difficulties of moving between our conditioning in the masculine aspect of divinity and the experience of the feminine divine. His exposition was much more consistent with the spirit and nature of the divine feminine than Z. Budapest, who well demonstrated her ideological roots and agenda in this same encounter.
While she would decry the history of violence by religion, and assuredly ascribe such violence to an essential trait of masculinity at all levels—from the personal through the Divine—and then claim that the feminine form of the Divine would do no such thing, her performative contradictions leap off the page right and left, and the violence of her prejudices discloses her own dangerous inconsistencies, if not hypocrisy.
Take as an example the immediate fall of the interview into the contradiction of describing the equality of all people and the absence of judgment in the eyes of the Goddess while reducing all male-God-centered religions to promoting values of "jealousy, possessiveness, exclusivity, obedience, guilt, punishment, fear." Is this a balanced or equitable view of divinity in male form? Even if these attributes were true, has she shown any positive attributes of God, masculinity or men? Warren Farrell long ago pointed out that ideological feminist social critics extol the light side of women and the dark side of men while leaving out the dark side of women and the light side of men. Budapest elevates this error into the realms of the Divine. While posturing herself as a spokeswoman for the divine feminine, she weighs into judgments of men and their spiritual capacities with no sign of empathy or compassion, not to mention any respect for the "other" manifestation of the Goddess. Listening to Budapest would lead one to believe that only women and children came from the Goddess, and then you'd have to wonder about boys. Is this the kind of behavior we should expect from a high priestess, an agent of the Goddess? How is this any different than the negative behaviors of the religious traditions she condemns?
Furthermore, Budapest decries all higher structures—including spirit—as "bullshit," and leaves them all as aspects of "nature." We must ask where that leaves any kind of divinity. If "nature," God, Goddess and bullshit all share the same status, what kind of "nature" is that and what distinguishes divinity in any kind of meaningful way? I laud WIE'
s interviewer for her clear efforts at drawing Budapest's attention to these inconsistencies. Your staff has come through once again in taking on a tough topic in a time of not only politically correct tyranny, but also spiritually correct tyranny when addressing anything gender based. I can only hope Budapest's followers read as eagerly the words of Elizabeth Debold ["Dancing on the Edge"], Vimala Thakar ["The Challenge of Emptiness"] and Georg Feuerstein to learn something about gracefully moving in and out of those threshold experiences called God and Goddess before release into the primordial ground of the nondual.
Eric A. Hornak
Issue 9 Spring/Summer 1996
Adi Da Update
As a devotee of Adi Da, I was dismayed by the inclusion in your Spring/Summer 1996 issue ["Is the Guru Dead?"] of excerpts from Georg Feuerstein's book Holy Madness
, referring to Adi Da ["The Dangerous and Disillusioning Example of Da Free John"] in ways that were very misleading. Your use of those particular excerpts, which referred to sexual matters, gives the impression that Adi Da's use of sexuality is ongoing
and not limited to that particular time (periods in the seventies and early eighties). And of course there was no suggestion that Adi Da's use of sexuality was an effective method for accomplishing the aims of any legitimate guru—the matter of self-transcendence and letting go of binding, limiting romantic/sexual relationships. I would ask you to include information about Adi Da—information that is up-to-date and not misleading—in a future issue of your otherwise really wonderful magazine. (Appropriately, I'm enjoying your current issue on sexuality and spirituality right now).
Dryden, New York