"I think the sages are the growing tip of the secret impulse of
evolution," writes Ken Wilber in his book A Brief History of
. "I think they are the leading edge of the
self-transcending drive that always goes beyond what went
before. . . . They embody the very drive of the Kosmos toward
greater depth and expanding consciousness. . . . They are riding
the edge of a light beam racing toward a rendezvous with God."
What is the leading edge of spirituality going to look like in
the twenty-first century? In these ever-more challenging times
in which we are living, it seems that time itself is speeding up
or, as some people say, the rate of change is changing faster
than it ever has. For those at the leading edge, it's getting
harder and harder to hold on to old forms and ideas. The end of
an era, and the beginning of a new one, is literally forcing us
to find a new path, a new way to philosophically and spiritually
orient ourselves to the experience of being alive. The context
for the spiritual path in our time is different than it has ever
been because these days it would seem almost impossible for
anyone with an awakening heart and mind to avoid the
simultaneously thrilling and terrifying reality of our agitated
world. So now, when the changing life conditions are forcing us
to find a new way, what are we going to do? Where are we going
to turn? And who
are we going to turn to?
It was only very recently, at the beginning of the postmodern
era, that large numbers of us began to look beyond our own
religious traditions for spiritual sustenance. We did so because
the traditions no longer seemed capable of meeting the needs of
our highly educated and pluralistic mindset. Products of our own
time and culture, we knew too much to carry on in the old way.
And so some brave pathfinders went forth to find the answer they
couldn't find at home—and discovered enlightenment.
They found it in the East and brought it back so that the rest
of us could partake in the great feast of liberating wisdom and
higher consciousness beyond ego. And we did. But then we
stumbled. We stumbled because our Eastern masters, in spite of
their extraordinary knowledge of higher states, turned out to be
deeply embedded in a much older world than the one we were
trying to escape from. As a result, their ability to help us was
limited and, when we found that out, we rejected them. We
rejected them because we realized that, in spite of their
knowledge of higher states, they didn't truly know themselves.
And so in time, we reasonably concluded that we knew more than
they did. We moved forward and boldly forged a new path,
marrying East and West. We made a new and more complete map of
the entire terrain of human development, from early
psychological growth all the way to the furthest reaches of
higher consciousness. Evolution had, indeed, occurred and
history had been made.
But evolution is never that simple. In order to move forward,
it was necessary for us to challenge the position, power, and
authority that were part and parcel of the masters' worldview.
We, at the leading edge, had
to do this because we had
discovered that even though our perspective may not have been as
high as the masters', it was definitely more broad. We had a
bigger picture, a larger view, a more inclusive perspective that
undoubtedly embraced a much greater spectrum of the human
experience. And we knew it. But nothing is free in life, and we
have paid a price for our ingenuity. We have now become experts
in our own right. The Eastern masters have been replaced by
Western teachers. But as educated Westerners, children of the
postmodern era, our enlightenment may be stunted by the very
broadness of our view. It may be that our perspective has become
so inclusive that we have unknowingly negated the awesome,
transformative power of the very thing that we were so attracted
to in the first place—enlightenment itself. Why?
Because the always overwhelming and infinitely challenging truth
of enlightenment is the mind-shattering and ego-destroying
recognition that the many must be replaced by the ONE
So we are in a difficult predicament. How do we retain the
broadness of our view without sacrificing the radical simplicity
of the enlightened mind? How do we transcend the ego while
simultaneously and wholeheartedly embracing the complexity of
our unsettled world?
We may have to let go in a deeper way. Indeed, at this
juncture, in order to continue to move forward, our attachment
to the broadness of our hard-won perspective may need to be
given up. To push the edge of our own evolution, we may have to
take that leap that only masters take. But in our own case, in
order to take that same leap, we have to be willing to go beyond
not only the ego but also the very knowing mind and
inclusive worldview that has become our cherished "new
." For those at the leading edge, the way to the
future has to take us beyond where we have come to—as
significant as it is. What this means is that our perspective
has to shift gears, so to speak, so that we will be able to see
the many through the eyes of the One
. It was this
irreducible mind-transcending vision that was unknowingly
sacrificed when our broad perspective became more important to
us than the height of our spiritual attainment. We began to see
the One through the eyes of the many, without even knowing it.
When we rejected the masters, this was the inevitable result,
although it was a necessary and unavoidable step in our own bold
move forward to a broader understanding of the human experience.
So now, when the urgency for awakening is greater than it has
ever been, will more of us take that same leap that all true
masters have had to take—from the many to the One?
Let's never forget that the enlightened position, the seat of a
true master, is "the leading edge of the self-transcending drive
that always goes beyond what went before." And that
self-transcending drive is what needs to be unleashed in more and more of us so that our collective consciousness will begin to feel the gentle tug of a higher, deeper, and more profound calling. I think that our salvation may depend on it.