"Difference without hierarchy" is a phrase I remember well from my college years. I remember hurriedly scribbling those three words in my notebook as my English teacher, the cool teacher, the hippie-radical-whose-classes-everyone-wanted-to-take teacher, intoned their significance from the front of the room. And he was right. They were
significant. A person can be different, believe differently, see the world differently, follow a different creed or religion, live in a different culture, live an entirely different kind of life than you or me, and it's okay, it's not a problem—live and let live, different strokes for different folks. Now, believe it or not, that is a revolution in thinking. You don't have to grow up next to hot-blooded, high-minded Southern Baptists dead set on converting the world to their brand of Christianity come hell or high water to appreciate the revolution of liberalism, of pluralism, of tolerance and respect for differences without hierarchy-differences, that is, without a very nasty hierarchy of me looking down on you, or perhaps you looking down on me. And you don't need to watch CNN for very long to understand that for far too much of the world this is quite a difficult concept to grasp. But if you're reading these words, it's more than likely that the notion of respect for difference is something that has sunk deep roots into your way of understanding this multi-cultured and multi-creatured world. And I don't have to look too far around the offices of What Is Enlightenment?
to feel quite confident that the same can be said of those editing this magazine (give or take a few days before deadline). But before we get all warm and fuzzy and start congratulating our enlightened selves on our highly evolved outlook on life, we may want to stand back for a moment and take a second look at this notion of "difference without hierarchy."
You see, a number of outspoken voices in today's spiritual culture are telling us that in order to face the complexity of a changing world that seems to be hurtling a little faster toward Omega every day, we must ourselves be ready to embrace the process
of change, of development, of spiritual evolution and transformation. But unfortunately, there is no hope of doing that, they tell us, until we get beyond one very big obstacle—
difference without hierarchy. The once-revolutionary concept of "live and let live" that helped inspire the entire generation of baby boomers to make the world a kinder, gentler place for all shapes and sizes of people has, in its latest incarnation, we are told, spawned some rather unpleasant side effects, most notably an antihierarchical, antiauthoritarian, antievolutionary, politically correct, pseudo-spiritual world in which real transformation is paid only lip service and hardly anybody truly wants to change. Now if that seems like quite a mouthful, don't worry, because integral philosopher Ken Wilber has a simple term to describe this malady—boomeritis
. And, as you will see in the pages that follow, he is hardly the only person with a few choice words to say about this culture-wide phenomenon.
Don't get me wrong. The issue you hold in your hands is not solely about boomeritis. It is, first and foremost, an issue about change, about transformation, and about the higher reaches of our evolutionary potential. Indeed, in this edition of WIE
, we examine new models of individual and cultural transformation that are revolutionizing the way we understand the spiritual life. We explore new philosophical and metaphysical worlds that are opening up as the human race pushes ever further into the upper realms of human potential. We present glimpses of some of the great men and women in history who have shown us, through their own profound transformations, the untapped possibilities that lie dormant in the human race. And we venture a few steps out beyond the known to take a look at the mysterious nature of spiritual transformation, at stories of the miraculous that can never quite be understood by our material minds. This issue is about all of that, and yes, it is also about the resistance to change that today finds its most malignant expression in a cultural virus called boomeritis.
Now before I turn you loose on what we hope is our most provocative, inspiring, and eclectic spiritual adventure to date, let me inject one small note of caution. None of us can escape the influence of the times and culture in which we live and that may very well mean that all of us carry active, or at least dormant, strains of this postmodern virus—boomers and nonboomers alike. At the very least, make room for the possibility. We did. And as you will see in several of the articles that follow, boomeritis, it turned out, was indeed thriving quite well in the offices of What Is Enlightenment?