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by Andrew Cohen
Founder and Editor in Chief

Although I have been practicing Hatha yoga seriously for almost two decades, it had been years since I'd been to a yoga class or read a yoga magazine. Then, about nine months ago, I opened up a new Yoga Journal that had been left on my desk. I was stunned, like one who had fallen asleep and had awakened to find himself on another planet, in another dimension. It was a world where everyone was beautiful and everyone was rich. In this world there was a popular trend called “spirituality,” in which everybody had a personal relationship with their maker and the most important thing, it seemed, was to have a beautiful body and be happy!

Around that same time, I watched an unusual documentary, Words of My Perfect Teacher by Lesley Ann Patten, that compellingly portrayed the ups and downs of her relationship with her trailblazing and enigmatic Tibetan guru Dzongsar Rinpoche. The most fascinating thing about the film was how incredibly challenging it was for Dzongsar's Western students to find real faith not only in him but in the possibility of their own transformation. These two unrelated events eventually became the foundation for the issue of What Is Enlightenment? that you're holding in your hands.

For a long time, we have been having almost daily discussions in our editorial meetings about a matter that's close to our hearts: the postmodern spiritual predicament. We are concerned about the ever-widening gap between the religious traditions and the contemporary culture of “personal” spirituality, and wonder how we can help bridge that divide. The most recent fruit of our inquiry is this issue's context-setting piece, “Spiritual but Not Religious: Moving Beyond Postmodern Spirituality,” by senior editor Elizabeth Debold, supported by Rabbi Marc Gafni's article, “The Evolution of Divinity.” Philosopher Jason Hill's plea for the creation of a new model of hierarchy is nothing less than groundbreaking and provides a framework from which to negotiate the complexity of the teacher-student relationship as we move forward in the twenty-first century.

As synchronicity would have it, quite unexpectedly I shared a wonderful afternoon last May with Hermetic philosopher and spiritual teacher Dr. Dario Salas Sommer, who is a legendary figure throughout South America. This gave us an opportunity to include his uncompromising views on the traditional role of the spiritual master, which stand in stark contrast to the prevailing flattening of differences between, as Jason Hill would put it, the “hierarcher” and the “hierarchee.” Finally, Tom Huston's hard-hitting review of the popular new book The Translucent Revolution, by my friend Arjuna Ardagh, urges us all to reach even higher to create a new future. A future where the ancient traditions will be revitalized so that they are not only protectors of the faith but engines for the evolution of human consciousness. A future where perhaps the experience of transcendence, of higher states, will even catalyze the creation of new traditions . . . Enjoy!


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December 2005–February 2006