The following are excerpts from America, the Sorcerer’s New Apprentice: The Rise of New Age Shamanism. Written in 1988, the book documents America’s turning to concepts and practices that are rooted in Eastern Mysticism. There should be little doubt that the West is being overrun by the beliefs of the East, in particular that we are all God, which we have allegedly forgotten. It’s imperative therefore that we be restored to our godhood, especially through ancient and modern altered states of consciousness devices. This is sorcery, which Scripture declares will dominate in the Last Days. The unabashed shamans of this movement are today’s psychotherapists. NOTE: All references to names and organizations herein can be found in the book.
Rather than abandon their obviously bankrupt profession, many psychologists and psychiatrists have compounded their error by trying to shore up their collapsing house of cards with Eastern mysticism of one form or another. Having failed miserably to change their clients’ behavior, the psychotherapists reached deeper into their silk hat and pulled out altered states of consciousness, the same magic long used by the “traditional psychologists from the East”—the gurus, yogis, and shamans. A change of consciousness became the key to everything, even though no one yet knew what it was that was being changed.
Increasing numbers of psychologists and psychiatrists are being drawn into Eastern mysticism because of their discovery that it offers the very transformation of consciousness that psychotherapy seeks to effect. At the 25th Annual Meeting of The Association for Humanist Psychology, held on August 5-9, 1987, participants shared “channeling, rebirthing, energy healing, metaphysical counseling,” as well as “consciousness group work.” The “traditional morning meditation, yoga, and aerobics programs” were enhanced with “some of the new high-tech, whole-brain synchronization techniques.”
Representative of this growing trend, psychiatrist Rudolph Ballentine and clinical psychologist Allan Weinstock have both studied under gurus in India. Weinstock is now known as Swami Ajaya after his ordination as a Hindu monk. Ballentine and Ajaya joined Swami Rama of Chicago’s Himalayan Institute in coauthoring Yoga and Psychotherapy: The Evolution of Consciousness. In it they explained that yoga “has offered for thousands of years” what Western psychotherapists “are seeking.”As University of California professor Jacob Needleman has said: “A large and growing number of psychotherapists are now convinced that the Eastern religions offer an understanding of the mind far more complete than anything yet envisaged by Western science. At the same time, the leaders of the new religions themselves—the numerous gurus and spiritual teachers now in the West—are reformulating and adapting the traditional systems according to the language and atmosphere of modern psychology.”
Eastern religion and various forms of occultism are now packaged in psychological terminology for twentieth-century public consumption. Abraham Maslow’s “self-actualization” should have been easily recognized as a Westernized version of yoga’s “self-realization,” but that connection was slow in being acknowledged. Psychologist Daniel Goleman was among the first to point out that Eastern philosophies “seem to be making gradual headway [in the West] as psychologies, not as religions.” That transmutation should have surprised no one, for as Lawrence LeShan explains, “The basic model of man that led to the development of [Eastern] meditational techniques is the same model that led to humanistic psychotherapy.”
“The Medicine Woman of Beverly Hills,” Lynn Andrews, recently told the Los Angeles Times: “Shamanism is really like gestalt therapy. It’s like primal therapy, and it has a lot of Jungian in it.”
According to research psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey, “The techniques used by Western psychiatrists are, with few exceptions, on exactly the same scientific plane as the techniques used by witch doctors.” Nobelist Richard Feynman describes psychotherapy as “not a science...but more like witchdoctoring.”
Having ridiculed and debunked for nearly 80 years mankind’s universal and longstanding belief in things spiritual, psychologists have begun to reintroduce ancient occult beliefs and practices, but with the new labels of their own secular “spirituality.” The same occult powers are being sought through basically the same altered states, but now as “human potential” instead of as coming from independent spirit entities. Many of the same words and rituals are used, but with altered meanings that fit the new religion of psychology. God is now “the collective unconscious” and spirits have become “splits of the psyche.”
Witchcraft is out of the cocoon and flying, having metamorphosed into a socially and academically acceptable “therapy.” And the followers of this new religion are vulnerable to a horror they have been promised is only a myth. The bait on the hook is the promise that within the psyche an infinite potential awaits discovery and exploration—but the treasure is dispensed by “spirits.”
In the process of subjecting his patients to “dream analysis” and hypnotic trance in pursuit of childhood memories, Freud “discovered” that there was an unconscious side to consciousness, and he concluded that it was in fact the most important part. He also suspected that it might be greater in scope than the individual’s own experience. Jung decided (with encouragement from his spirit guide, Philemon) that at this unconscious level all minds were a part of something that he called the collective unconscious and described as the source of mystical powers. Without any scientific basis, these twin beliefs were accepted by faith by the disciples of Freud and Jung and became the foundation for the many psychologies and therapies that followed. As a result, nearly everyone now accepts as scientific fact the religious belief that this vast unexplored region of “inner space” is a reservoir of magical powers that exceed even the wildest science fiction fantasy.
Self-improvement seminar leaders assure us that by simply looking within ourselves, we can discover all truth, all knowledge, and all power. In order to mine this presumably unlimited human potential, psychologists have attempted to explore consciousness through Eastern mysticism’s altered states—states of consciousness that were first explored through hypnosis, then LSD. Oddly enough, it was decided that the further one retreated from normal consciousness, the more “enlightened” one became.
The lowest level was assigned to ordinary states of awareness, while “higher consciousness” required losing touch with what is generally considered to be normal perception. Thus any basis for objective evaluation of the experience must be relinquished in order to reach “enlightenment,” which in itself should make that state highly suspect. Suspicions should also arise on another count. As Shirley MacLaine and so many others tell us, one amazingly discovers in this “higher state of consciousness” that one is actually “God.” Interestingly enough, our alleged oneness with “God,” or Jung’s “collective unconscious,” has been the constant refrain of the channeled entities down through history. In Channeling, Jon Klimo reminds us: “Virtually all of the sources above the astral levels tell us that...we are evolving...toward an eventual reunion with the one God, which is the underlying identity of All That Is.... The various occult, esoteric, and mystery school teachings repeat the theme. Enlightenment involves realizing [the] illusory state of our daily entranced experience, and awakening to the...oneness of all.”
Stephen Williamson, director of the Institute for Bio-Acoustic Research, warns against techniques whose goal is to bypass the conscious, rational mind where information is accepted or rejected.
Yet this is precisely one’s condition in the “altered state” being sought by millions for “enlightenment.” And Herbert Benson, despite some ambivalent warnings, even recommends his “Relaxation Response” technique as a means of “pass[ing] into the so-called hypnotic state” precisely because, as he says, “in this state of enhanced left-right hemispheric communication...‘cognitive receptivity’ or ‘plasticity of cognition’ occurs, in which you actually change the way you view the world.” It hardly seems advisable to make a major change in one’s thinking in such a fluid mental state. Such active promotion of delusionary altered states by leading members of the medical and psychological professions has given the New Age consciousness revolution an undeserved aura of “scientific” credibility that has persuaded millions of people to get involved.
With understanding out and experience in, happiness (or almost anything else) became simply a state of consciousness to be sought as an end in itself. By turning the focus inward, the Freudian/Jungian obsession with the unconscious spawned a menagerie of selfisms: self-love, self-acceptance, self-improvement, self-worth, self-confidence, self-esteem, self-ad nauseam. Only 40 years prior, self-centeredness was considered a human failing, and an ugly one. Today, self is the center of most psychotherapies, the god at whose altar nearly everyone bows to beg favors—for self is now considered to be the hope of humanity, the inexhaustible source of man’s salvation. “Everything you need is inside of you!” is the bold promise of the modern hucksters of innumerable ingenious techniques for tapping into the infinite You.
Looking inside oneself to get in touch with one’s feelings, however, only intensifies the loneliness and alienation that couples feel who are trying to learn to live with each other while at the same time Looking Out for Number One, as that bestselling book instructed. “Dealing with stress” has become a national pastime, and the old methods of self-denial, self-control, and counting to ten are now too laborious. Everyone wants a quick fix, a magical formula—and there are experts by the thousands who claim to have the ultimate technique.
Here is just one more form taken by the ancient nature religion versus the Bible scenario. It is the same old polytheism/pantheism/scientism resurrected with a new twist and an even more overt opposition to supernaturalism. The new way of getting in touch with and worshiping nature is getting in touch with and worshiping self as nature’s most highly evolved form. The demeaning biblical so-called myth of man’s rebellious separation from God has been replaced with psychology’s more positive myth of alienation from the self. Sin is no longer the root of mankind’s troubles; the problem as now perceived is simply ignorance of one’s true identity and worth. There is no explanation, however, of how perfect beings could have “forgotten” who they were-—nor any guarantee that this mysterious ignorance, once dispelled through reaching a “higher” state of consciousness, will not arise again.
Subjective feelings (and how to manufacture and manipulate them) have inevitably become all-important. How one feels is now the only criterion, while how one ought to feel or act has lost all meaning. Since consciousness is susceptible to control by each individual, there are no longer any moral restraints involved. In justification of psychology’s encouragement of hedonism, Esalen has offered techniques for “recognizing that your feelings—your discoveries—are your truth, without needing outside validation.” It was this revolutionary gospel, preached by psychologists, sociologists, and educators, that created the “do-your-own-thing” Me Generation.
The basic theories that built Haight Ashbury and Woodstock (and were finely tuned at Esalen) are still being promoted by humanistic psychologists as the gospel truth. The once-upon-a-time “flower children” of the fifties and sixties are the highly respected doctors, lawyers, politicians, schoolteachers, university professors, psychologists, social workers, and scientists who have become our leaders. The drug-spawned consciousness revolution that failed in the fifties and sixties is now being fed to us from the top down, recycled and wrapped in the bright ribbons of thousands of psychotherapies and self-improvement techniques.
That type of thinking has a long history that ought to serve as a warning to us today. Freud was convinced that cocaine was the wonder drug of his day, and some of his theories were no doubt conjured up while under its influence. In addition to using it himself, he prescribed it for others, resulting in the death of one of his friends. Even Bayer, the highly regarded German pharmaceutical company, offered heroin to the world as a promising new cough medicine in 1888, one year before it introduced aspirin. It would be foolish to think we have gotten beyond such delusions. In Psychiatric Drugs: Hazards to the Brain, psychiatrist Dr. Peter Breggin points out: “All the major psychiatric drugs are highly neurotoxic (poisonous to nerve cells), all frequently produce widespread brain dysfunction in their routine therapeutic dose range; and all achieve their primary overriding effect on the patient by producing some degree of brain disfunction.”
As we have already noted, however, Eastern meditation, transcendental meditation, and other forms of yoga, including postures and breathing, produce a similar (but potentially even more powerful) altered state of consciousness than that caused by drugs. “Buddha reportedly recognized only one miracle—the transformation of human consciousness.” That transformation is the major goal of virtually all psychotherapies today.
Increasing numbers of researchers and ex-meditators are warning the world that various techniques for altering consciousness are far more lethal than cocaine or heroin. Yet hardly anyone seems to be listening. No government regulatory agency has required warning labels on yoga, TM, or the many psychotherapies that are based upon dangerous consciousness-altering methodologies. Some of these techniques are specifically designed to mimic drug-induced states. The situation is staggering.
After using LSD on about 4,000 patients, Czech-born psychiatrist Stanislav Grof (for a number of years scholar-in-residence at Esalen) developed his “holotropic breathing” technique. Grof made the discovery that “the [holotropic] breathing itself had psychedelic effects, triggering a mind trip that ran the gamut from waking dreams and flashbacks to birth memories, past life memories, and encounters with spiritual beings.” One observant of a weekend workshop utilizing the Grof method and conducted by UCLA psychiatrist Curt Batiste at Sky High Ranch in Palmdale, California, reported: “The breathers lay on the gray pile carpet breathing with pranayamic gusto. Within minutes, the room was transformed into the bowels of a madhouse a la Hieronymous Bosch...bloodcurdling screams and deep moans emerged from many of the breathers.... [One woman] had a vision of herself in the body of a man walking down a street a hundred years ago, preparing to rape a series of women. ‘I was him,’ she gasped.”
Those engaged in such occultic practices sometimes seem to come out of the bedlam with “deeper insights” and to experience “positive” changes in their lives. However, the benefits generally do not last, and all too often new problems arise to replace those originally dealt with. Nevertheless, the game goes on. There seems to be no limit to the faith placed in this magical but unexplained realm of consciousness or to the godlike powers its devotees hope to acquire through entering altered states and thereby tapping into the collective unconscious. It is astonishing that this faith persists in spite of the obvious absurdities, contradictions, dangers, and disasters. [To be continued]