Participatory Spirituality for the 21st Century
Legend has it that human history is occasionally breached by a transcendental person -- the illuminated World-Teacher.
This para-individual is a profound source of religious, ethical, psychological & creative energy far in excess of mere saints, geniuses, savants and enlightened masters. Such an ultra-spiritual human is one whose wisdom and powers reveal him or her to be: wholly good, quasi-omniscient & imbued with the creative resources to shape an entire epoch of planetary history.
He or she is an all-accomplishing, amazingly up-to-date and arch-prophetic embodiment of unsurpassed value (sheer divinity). Our most basic human, existential and moral relationship to Truth & Happiness is defined for an era by the unique style and concerns of this world-historical and sublimely avataric sage.
VARIOUS BELIEFS ABOUT WORLD-TEACHERS
Many strange things are said about this planetary super-guru. Hindoos, for example, suggest that it is simply pragmatic to regard your own self-developmental teacher or wisdom-friend as YOUR implicitly divine, all-accomplishing World-teacher. This is supposed to open you to a more intense and effective relationship! Meanwhile, however, many followers of Moses, Siddhartha, Jesus of Christ, and that ragged, rag-headed desert warlord, linguist, merchant & ultra-nationalist "Muhammed of Mecca" speak as if their particular cultural icon were the last true World-teacher that anyone could ever need. And if you don't agree...
Others, more occult in their temperament, envision a Great Cycle of the Emanations of God in which a single higher being or power is periodically embodied on Earth to correct or update our lagging spiritual lives. And it is eternally popular to anticipate that the NEXT WORLD-TEACHER is nearly here! Days away! Coming to answer the prayers of this Dark Time!
And lots of folks, obviously, claim this whole business is false, fictitious, unreal & basically unrelated to any actual historical persons -- a mere metaphor at best!
Beyond that we find that a few folks have the audacity to proclaim themselves as this world-historical ultra-human-divinity. What motivates these maniacs? It could be simple honesty (a true confession!) but probably it is either pathetic vanity, cynical propaganda or a robustly theatrical sense of humor. Or perhaps all of the above?
In our Contemporary Age of planetary pluralism we find a plethora of people inclined to worship all the famous World-teachers all at once! Or perhaps they acknowledge an abstract hybrid of “all of them”. More democratic mystics go even farther to suggest that every one of us, collectively and individually, has the potential to be the paradigm-altering super-being.
THE WORLD-TEACHER, PER SE
We may well ask ourselves what all these figures and interpretations mostly have in common? What are the attributes of the generic world-teacher?
We are looking for someone who is:
* sublimely integrated in their intellect, emotions and body.
* trans-national (including “imperial”, world-shaping)
* a heroic servant of human well-being
* attainers of “peak experiences” in the body, subtle body, pure spirit & the transcendent inseparable dimension which unites all these
* a source of cultural inspiration at all levels -- capable of giving birth to a whole culture
* mysteriously nice to be around
* the epicenter of occasional synchronistic and miraculous occurrences
* extremely insightful -- esp. in psychology, bio-energy, philosophy, morality, meditation, prayer and the meaning of life.
* can intuit the difference between more and less healthy choices in almost every situation
* experiences an ongoing state of consciousness which transcends all knowledge
* exists partly in one place and partly everywhere
* has perfect timing
* is willing and able to feel everything
* always sums up all spiritual wisdom and gives it a personal flavor
* assimilates and integrates all the unique patterns of the current epoch and re-produces living wisdom in order to maximally accommodate these patterns
While this list probably does not exhaust the intuited characteristics of the True World-teacher we can see that this person must make a special presentation of spiritual wisdom appropriate to the age we live in. And we can therefore assume that people with an out-dated idea of the modern age probably affirm a World-Teacher who seems a little bit peripheral to everyone else's concerns. Your world-teacher depends on your understanding of the world -- since he or she has to embody, redirect and divinely assimilate each Age.
WHAT ARE WE LIKE NOW?
So these characteristics and others seem to be part of the universal human neuro-genetic “template” which intuits the existence of a world-teacher. But knowing that such a teacher is meant to summarize, integrate, overcome and pattern the epoch we must wonder what qualities are distinct about the modern world? What would a world-teacher need to work with today?
* ironic (skeptical, meta-, “quoted”, snapshot, reframed, askew, almost...)
* casually obscene (like old pagan empires we are relaxing the reactive gesture which tries to exclude parts of life from public discussion... parts such as gross physicality, reproductive animal, excretions, profanity, heresy, ambiguity, cynicism, disturbing jokes, graphic imagery, etc.)
* voyeuristic (the universal access to private viewing of any images or writings)
* ecological (ecosystems, awareness of backgrounds, body-positive, friends of greenery, sensitive to DNA, alert to the subconscious, context-aware, immersion oriented, network-thinking, niche-pondering, thermostat-operating)
* everything is energy or information flows
* integrationist (deconstruction/reconstruction, synthesis, hybrids, )
* early space-faring era
* at war between expansionists and complainers
* gender re-examination (feminine empowerment, sex changes, LGBT, etc.)
* the rise of robots (include AI software)
* distributed industry
* making new peace with the uncanny other
* “what is anything???” (the phillip k. dick, lovecraft question)
* hyper-individualism, wanton character building
* complex, non-linear, fractal, chaotic,
* casually sexual
* ahistorical (retro, streampunk, ultra-historicism, retrofuturism, power of now)
* novel juxtapositions, short-circuits, weird combinations at high speed
* obsessed with performing arts (there are only enactments!)
OKAY... WHAT ELSE???
We are ...
Hypnotized by small handheld devices
More interconnected (but, for some, also increasingly asocial)
Dissipating energy (and dumbing ourselves down!) on Reality TV
Feeling intimations of immanent, unprecedented global catastrophe (apocalyptic)
Valuing notoriety as a publicly acceptable substitute for value or esteem
Cynical and opportunist in our "packaging" of personality as product
Tinkering at our foundations
Fascinated by zombies
Secular (and secular-as-sacred)
Navigators of time and space (as boundaries between countries and cultures at various developmental stages are more easily and cheaply crossed; as ancient and modern views and texts are equally at our real-time fingertips)
Bumping up (hard?) against the limits of our appetites
Getting intimations of a new gaian/global or kosmic identity
Experiencing systems failure and the jittery creative edge of (social, environmental, etc) systems far from equilibrium
The archetype of a world-teacher is from the age of heroes, i.e., formal operational cognition with its individualism. We're moving into the P2P age and the next Buddha will be a sangha. Check out this essay by the P2P Foundation which provides a good idea of the next age and "Buddha," with examples from Ferrer and Heron. Bauwens does for spirituality what Rifkin does for techno-economy. Also this is what Balder is and has been working on, and what this site is about. Balder's real name is in fact mentioned in Bauwens' article.
We see this residue of a Savior in The Matrix, The One. Not surprisingly, there is an attachment to the metaphysical One within this frame. We're going multiplex (multiplicity).
Good points, Ed. I was swept up in the "World Teacher" longing at one time, back when I was studying Krishnamurti's works and later living at one of his schools. He was the "world teacher ;-)" -- chosen by Theosophists as The One and then rejecting their adulation; working as a globe-spanning spiritual teacher while trying to erase himself as an authority; talking about being a vehicle of an intelligence that only rarely manifests itself when the right bodily vehicle is born, while at the same time denouncing the whole "world teacher" myth as childish seeking after security. I see him now as a sort of modern-era "Protestant" mystic; he stands, in modern(ist)/individualist fashion, as a kind of Martin Luther over against the vast mythic-mystical lineages and institutions of the land of his birth.
For some reason I haven't been able to identify, the Thomas Covenant series (and the character) have been on my mind. It has been over 20 years, probably, since I read those books, and I don't know if I'd even enjoy them now, but I've had the "aura" of this series haunting my thoughts for the past few days. Thinking about the theme of this thread, Thomas Covenant the Unbeliever is another example of an anti-One: this time, he is The One in spite of himself. He is a bitter, selfish leper, unwillingly (at first) getting pulled into helping the inhabitants of the Land deal with Lord Foul. He only actualizes his salvific power for the ailing land through the faith and hope that others unflaggingly place in him. Repeating the theme we've touched on here several times recently: the One as a gesture of the Many. (There are shades of this in Neo, too).
THE MANY MESSIAH
Yes, the end of my section of various positions relative to the world-teacher ends with a mention of the various ideas of the contemporary group of individuals being each or collectively the world-teacher... the sangha-buddha.
My private gnostic reading of early Christianity resembles this already very much -- the establishment of new, interlinked communities which bypass the local geographic nationalisms and access the mind-expanding wisdom preserved in the esoteric monasteries... but they generated a christ character out of this... the Trans-Personal Man who incarnates the wise-sayings which are passed around the networked peer-groups. So even myriad emerging networks of P2P multitudes may operate to generate a summarizing individual or legendary virtual person.
The teacher rejecting his status as the world-teacher is VERY "contemporary world-teacher". At the same time one of the general attributes that is seemingly assumed by most intuitive historical approaches to this character does involve the sense of the leader whose very reluctance is proof of his moral appropriateness. So a certain kind of "in spite of oneself" has always been a factor. It should be on the list. But our modern style of this may be distinct... more performative, ironic, nuanced, ambiguous, or whatnot.
Didn't Thomas have a white gold ring that shot fire? I read it very early in life but I always remembered the leper and the while gold.
My hermetic qabalah experience was that such virtual persons were the god/desses, or archetypes more psychologically understood. And that during ceremony these virtuals manifested through individuals playing their parts. Hence there was no one individual who was the virtual entity in toto, no one God/dess wo/man. Granted the metaphysically-minded saw the god/desses themselves as self-existent, individual entities. But again, there was a pantheon, with no one the ultimate leader or world teacher. Except of course with the more totalitarian-minded, who just had to have someOne in charge.
Since you mentioned PK Dick (yes, I'm a Dickhead), I've yet to see the remake of Total Recall, going this weekend. It's not doing so well at the box office, not sure of the reviews. I enjoyed the original with Arnold. And of course PKD's original story. Looking forward to Beckinsale and Biel in fight scenes.
And my fav PKD novel was his last, The Transmigration of Timothy Archer. Therein he questioned his entire oeuvre in that previously there as always a real behind the apparent that came to be revealed. In TTA there might be a real but it can never be fully known, and that the search to do so was folly that ended in totalitarianism and madness. He was ahead of his time and fits nicely into our burgeoning postmetaphysical era. Someone simply must make this into a movie.
Didn't Thomas have a white gold ring that shot fire? I read it very early in life but I always remembered the leper and the while gold.
Yes, that's it. I must have read these books when I was 15 or so, so I'm not sure why they've suddenly returned to awareness. (I was interested to find, looking now at some online discussions of the books, that the three Ravers, evil demonic beings, were named after the three stages of enlightenment: Moksha, Samadhi, and Turiya.)
So even myriad emerging networks of P2P multitudes may operate to generate a summarizing individual or legendary virtual person.
Yes, in our age, or the near future, I can image the emergence of a digital yidam that enfolds and embodies our kairotic spirit...
Or Borromean fractals:
I see Cthulhu in the 2nd one. All hail! Interestingly, kairos refers to an opportune time for one skilled in rhetoric to take advantage. It also refers to another kind of time, one more indeterminate. Recall ordinal time from this post and above.
Btw, Total Recall was quite good. Excellent action and an interesting political allegory. Better than I was expecting. And with the usual Dickean Borromean knots, complete with super hero that saves the day. That he forgot he was the hero goes along with our reluctant messiah meme, as he must re-member (like Osiris).
Maybe VALIS is the coming Christ! Jeez Louise...
Interestingly, kairos refers to an opportune time for one skilled in rhetoric to take advantage. It also refers to another kind of time, one more indeterminate. Recall ordinal time from this post and above.
Yes, I thought you would appreciate that!