Belief systems, trance states and addictions which block out our contact with the Spirit World.
We can probably assume that today the majority of people are not interested in spiritual matters, and live their lives without any idea of the Spirit World. They do not believe in a life beyond death, and so make the most of the one lifetime which they believe is all they have. They live in one trance state or another, following types of belief systems which allow for no continuation of personal life beyond the present lifespan, and become addicted to self-destructive behaviors. But paradoxically, even religious people can also be blocked from a total view of reality, cut off from contact with the Spirit World by the restrictions and prohibitions of their own sects' beliefs and customs.
Our religious beliefs and traditions can keep us as strongly earthbound as the most skeptical scientist. We become so intent and even heated in defending the faith, and guarding our sacred sites and burial grounds, monuments, graveyands, cemeteries, tombs and relics, and addicted to our ritualised existence, that we lose sight of the further life ahead. We become attached to places and addicted to routines and outworn traditions, and lose touch with the living spirit.
It is right that we should honour, respect and remember the dead. But we should also remember that they are still very much alive, and would not want us to waste our time mourning their passing, or frequenting morgues, mortuaries, graveyards, and battle sites when their spirits have long since moved on. If we happen to be doing some rescue work on behalf of some earthbound spirits, fair enough, but for the most part we should live our lives fully on earth while at the same time keeping in touch with the living spirits of our loved ones and ancestors, aware that they are there, somewhere in the Spirit World, able and willing to help and inspire us..
Now to become aware of the Spirit World beyond and also around us, we may need to study and search for more information than our religions have been able to give us. Sometimes a spiritual awakening can occur suddenly without our seeking it, as in a Near-Death Experience, or an intuitive realisation that one is more than a human animal with a once-and-for-all lifetime in a physical form - or it may occur more slowly at the end of a long search, when one gradually becomes aware that there is something more to life: there is a truth one needs to know, but one can't put a finger on it. There is a kind of "divine discontent" and one wants to stop the world and get off, or put all wrongs right. One is like an amnesiac who has forgotten his or her name and previous life history.
Whether one has a sudden complete flash of enlightenment, (samadhi, satori, or glimpse of nirvana), or a slower revelation (kensho), the search for meaning continues once it has started, even beyond the transition at death, when the soul merges into a greater recognition of the true nature of life.
As long as the search continues, however, the complete knowledge of the spiritual universe also continues to be blocked from us, and this is partly because the blinding light of spiritual love and energy and its power of realisation could lead to premature death or insanity, since our physical frame and brain circuits could not handle it, and neither would the spirit body have achieved a high enough frequency to assimilate it. So this block is a natural defence; those who experiment with drugs or forceful awakening techniques such as raising kundalini, or breathing heavily or other intensive methods are in danger - Gopi Krishna has written about the terrible experiences he had beyond his control, lasting for over a decade. So going slow and not asking for too much is a wise safeguard. Yet some people make a meal out of the search, devoting their life and wealth and possessions to a cult or personal enquiry, and so forgetting to live, participate in life and contribute positively to their family's welfare and society's progress.
Ken Wilber has called this delaying tactic the "Atman Project,", where one is searching for one's soul, but selfishly, and in all the wrong places. Instead of being awake, here and now, and living a full life and sharing with others, and destroying prejudices, corruption and pollution and concerned with other vital present-day issues, one goes off into a trance-like state and becomes selfishly involved in oneself, ignoring the welfare of others. This can become a self-destructive course, and may also lead, in one respect, to becoming obsessed by physical appearance, feeling the need for endless cosmetic surgery, or on other cases, excessive dieting, bulimia and anorexia take over. Depression, hedonism or addiction may be other distractions which block out acknowledgement of the Spirit World.
While one may never give up asking ""Who am I ?" and try to come out of trance, on the other hand, the delaying tactic of subscribing to the "Atman Project" can paradoxically take one away from the spiritual path. One can attend an endless array of workshops and seminars in self-development or zealously try to convert others into a particular belief system or religious sect, as some do - you know the type of door-to-door proselytizing couples - or those standing on street-corners with pamphlets and placards. Holy wars, crusades and acts of retaliation and revenge are extensions of this type of religious zeal.
Instead of all that, we have the option to act like a Gandhi, and meditate and contemplate quietly and realise who we really are, and information and understanding will come flooding into our consciousness in installments which we can handle, assimilate and live with. So for us to progress we need to put away all delaying tactics, and "Atman Projects" and live the life we have chosen to the full. It is all we have at the moment, and we can only be effective from this time and place, as we are. We make use of the positive and negative qualities and experiences in ourselves and what we confront around us. That is our way of being in the world. While we know there is more, and better, to come, when we return home to the Spirit World after the transition called Death, who is really our friend, we have to deal with these outworn customs and beliefs, and separate the wheat from the chaff. That does not mean hasten the process towards death by suicide or murder. That is a misuse of power, and lack of reverence for life. But direct experience, and direct and effective action is what we must take, if we are not to sink into inertia and slide back into ignorance.
When we start to awaken and act responsively and positively, rather than react in a trance-like state, then we will find that to experience even a small part of spiritual truth and beauty takes us "out of this world." But before we can gain a better understanding of the inexhaustible expansiveness of the Spirit World, we have to look for a while at the material beliefs and trance states that restrict that vision, and keep us fearful, imprisoned and bound to the material world. Adam Crabtree in his books "Multiple Man" and "Trance Zero" Ken Wilber, in his "Atman Project" and other books on integral psychology, and Bruce Alexander in " The Globalization of Addiction," all three authors` discuss this topic in great detail. Right now I will take a look at some of the ideas that Adam Crabtree presents about society's various trance states.
Adam Crabtree's two books, "Multiple Man" and "Trance Zero" to my mind are absolutely essential reading if you want to remain sane and independently responsible in this modern world of unethical legal and commercial practices, religious mania and insanity and lobby-controlled politics. I can see how difficult it is for us to think for ourselves when we are all entranced, without knowing it, by our family group mind, our culture's group mind and other religious, cultural and professional limited mindsets. Group minds have produced remarkable achievements in the arts and sciences. The problem today is that in spite of these marvelous cooperative efforts, a number of conservative and primitive elements with their own short-sighted goals are causing the destruction of all the gains of more advanced cultures. Examples of this are ethnic and tribal rivalries, and rebellion against former colonial powers, and now, reactions against the efforts of the United Nations to offer relief in disaster areas and to prevent genocide and foster the respect for human rights and promote democratic government. Fundamentalist groups either send aid to wore-torn and famine-ravaged areas and promote democracy, or alternatively teach their young to sacrifice their lives destroying what they are taught to believe are hostile and heretical opponents. Fundamentalist spiritual teachings are usually interpreted literally, which provides a further barrier separating them from the true wold of spirit..
Adam Crabtree is a psychotherapist practising in Toronto, He was born and bred in rural Minnesota, became a Benedictine monk and then was ordained as a Catholic priest. But then after training and working at the Therafields therapeutic community, his outlook widened. He quit the church, married, and began researching many aspects of mental illness, spirituality, hypnosis and reincarnation.
Like Gurdjieff and Thomas Hora before him, Crabtree found that we are all inclined to become lulled asleep by the culture we live in during our lives here on earth, and unless we wake up from our trance, (and this state of wakefulness he calls “trance zero”) we cannot truly come to grips with reality, and see what really is happening. This explains how it is with the current state of the world. I will just take a look here at a few ideas discussed in chapter six of "Trance Zero."
Crabtree states that group minds exist on the tribal, regional, and national levels of association. "They are products of the cohesiveness that develops over time in larger geographical areas through common genetics, common language, common religions or other common interests. History has shown that when a geographical group already has some loose affiliation, its cohesiveness is powerfully strengthened by the shared experience of oppression or conquest by an outside power. By suffering together at the hands of a common enemy, people who otherwise might be less sympathetic toward each other forge bonds and develop myths, rituals and other cultural expressions that cement their solidarity."
He goes on to say that the first and most influential group mind that we experience is our own family. It manifests a kind of personality and unique way of being in the world. Some such families are delightful to belong to, while others we would rather avoid.. Group minds are neither good nor bad, but they manifest "as wide a variety of qualities as individual people do."
Established over time "the group engenders feelings in its members whether they want to feel them or not. Members can no longer think about issues that relate to the group's concerns without being influenced by the group mind. At this point the group attains ascendency and the individuals within it have to some degree lost their ability to think independently. Individually, the members might not agree with the thoughts of the group, but under its influence they succumb. The group mind is truly more than the sum of its parts."
Eventually, Crabtree states, “our culture not only puts us to sleep; it has to keep us asleep. This is accomplished largely through the great cultural institutions: the family, the school, religion, the ethnic group, and the political unit. Our ‘normal’ state of mind is a trance induced by our culture and our induction into it begins at birth [or even before]. In general, we are expected to be ‘good citizens,’ members of society who conform to cultural-trance expectations and who, in our turn, reach our children to do the same, so that by the time they are released on the broader society usually around age four or five, they conform so well that they will not stand out, not threaten the unanimous view of the nature of reality that our culture embodies………. The pressure to conform accompanies us from the cradle to the grave…..people want desperately to be considered ‘normal.’ They fear the label ‘abnormal,’ which has come to denote the socially reformed, a hideous creature to be avoided by all. The media, the internet, the advertising and fashion industries, as well as political institutions and religious administrations of all kinds all require our conformity.”
Though it was long ago that some of us went through army boot camp, and more recently may have investigated several cults from the inside, we ourselves may no longer belong to any religion, sect or cult, though we maintain our professional connections and memberships, which are necessary and ‘normal’ for practical reasons. Crabtree thinks it is wise to look at what these two classes of activity, religion and the military, put us through; they tend to make us mindless robots, blindly obedient so as to be able to treat the enemy as inhuman objects, goons, rats or demons: we are on the side of the good, and they personify evil. “The very elements that provided positive experiences with the group mind could also produce negative ones. Community support of and interest in individual members could become community gossip, pressure to conform, and interference in each other’s lives. The hierarchical structure that originally developed to handle day-to-day management could also be experienced as the unfair exercise of power of one group over another.” Therefore, it is pertinent to read what Adam Crabtree has to say about these two areas of activity, military training, and the deterioration of a spiritual group into a cult, since we come across this type of action both in the tribal and ethnic warfare such as in Darfur and Iraq, and other parts of the world, and unfortunately also within our own religious and spiritual organizations and societies. These activities distract us and move us away from the World of Spirit, and as a result, we lose most of our reverence for life itself.
Crabtree goes on to say: "Many cults are patterned after the family. That way they make use of the unfulfilled longings and aspirations of individuals who have been disappointed with their personal family experiences. Charles Manson made that connection explicit, calling his infamous cult “The Family” and claiming that inclusion in its circle would allow his followers to overcome all divisiveness and attain true brotherly love. This provides a spectacular example of how a charismatic leader can induce a powerful group-mind trance and manipulate the entranced members to perform the most bizarre actions."
Around the same time Anne Hamilton-Byrne, a charismatic New Age medium led a similarly named ‘Family‘ in Australia, involving all kinds of skullduggery and child abuse for over twenty years, misleading many intellectuals and professionals such as Raynor Johnson to support her activities, which were linked to Muktananda’s Siddha Yoga organization.
Jim Jones and his People’s Temple also laid heavy emphasis on family values, as did a more recent tragic cult phenomenon, the Branch Davidians of Waco, Texas, under David Koresh. But Crabtree recommends that we listen to the tapes of Jim Jones, [formerly a medium and healer], when he encouraged and harangued his People’s Temple members to drink the poisoned punch, and go to their deaths. "This was not a man operating from clearly formulated thoughts arising from clearly established goals."
We can be thankful that Spiritualism has its well thought-out Principles, Buddhism its Precepts, Christianity its Beatitudes and Commandments, and every other true religion its prescriptions for a virtuous life. It is good that we have such positive values to follow. But once cultural values and beliefs are set, it is very hard to break free from them. We have only to look at the stories of some former members of different cults, and the difficult time they have had escaping..
However, many of these trance states are beneficial and benign, and there are some addictions which are positive, when it is not a case of substance abuse or love of money and power, but rather perseverance in a creative endeavour.. Trance states in mediumship allow us to contact other worlds, cooperate with the spirit world in healing or reach states of inspiration for invention, public performance and other joint and communal enterprises. But how to wake up from these cultish, oppressive and negative trance states, or avoid them in the first place?
It is certainly beneficial to be born with the gift of second sight, or to develop our intuitive abilites. In this way we are able to see clear, right from the start. Though this will create problems, because as we grow up in traditional society, what we see and hear and know beyond the normal worldview will not be believed or accepted by most other people.
If we are not psychically gifted at first, some shock, a change in circumstance, a near-death-experience, a spiritual search or conversion, - any of these can cause us to wake up, though very often we will just move on into another alternative trance state or belief system. However, in the search for the truth, if we remain ever vigilant and discerning, and learn what and whom to trust, we will come to know that all along we consist of an indestructible spirit body and non-local mind, inhabiting this mortal human body for a relatively short space of time. That body is born and bred in a particular society and has to accept its culture, language and customs if it is to survive. But when it begins to think for itself as it matures, it may wish to change, and choose other rules, rebel and break away and see beyond local conditions. Conflict between different classes, cultures, societies and nations arise in this way. The greater our breadth of vision, the greater need arises for much understanding, tolerance and acceptance of other views.. Often, religion fails us in this, and we need the consolation of philosophy and the knowledge of the greater life of spirit which we get glimpses of occasionally in dreams and visions, and which some mediums can bring through to us from those who have already preceded us back to our true home, in the eternal beyond. If we open our mind carefully to this 360 degree vision, we will not block out the Spirit World.
"Trance Zero" by Adam Crabtree, Somerville House Publishing, Toronto. 1997. ISBN 1-894042-04-2
"The Atman Project" by Ken Wilber, Quest Books,1980. ISBN 0-8356-0532-9
"The Globalization of Addiction: a study in Poverty of the Spirit." by Bruce Alexander, Oxford University Press. 2010.
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