Many Americans these days believe they have absorbed Eastern wisdom and are all but enlightened. But the Eastern graft onto the Western mind has been superficial and unfruitful.
To be sure, the soil in America was barely able to support life when the Eastern transplantation began a half century ago. And the land became completely adverse to inner life nearly 30 years ago. No matter how healthy the twig, the graft won’t take if the trunk is dead.
The word ‘graft’ has two meanings of course. On one hand, it means, “a twig inserted into a slit on the trunk of a living plant. And on the other it means, “the acquisition of money or power by dishonest means, especially by taking advantage of a position of trust.”
Because Western roots and trunk were dying, the Eastern graft could not possibly take, and instead became corrupted by spiritual authority and personal profit.
Therefore even as Western civilization was withering, especially in America, the Eastern graft in the second sense of the word was flourishing. Shallow, self-styled gurus, rebranded as ‘personal coaches’ and the like, began flourishing and are now ubiquitous.
The influence of Western civilization on the external, material life of humankind has been huge.
But in the West, and now globally, it has gone hand-in-hand with the total erosion of the inner life in the Judeo-Christian tradition by the new millennium.
It is no coincidence that as the United States was taking triumphalist victory laps over the Soviet Union and communism, a fusion of New Age woo and superficially transplanted Eastern practices was becoming the rage.
The egregious white supremacy movement, which now rules America through our racist president, parallels both the collapse of Western civilization in the United States, and illusions of Eastern-induced enlightenment among intellectuals and spiritual seekers.
The global crisis goes far deeper than the loss democratic values and norms in America, and the rise of nationalistic and autocracy around the world. Nor does the facile narrative of white nationalism, as true to a point and worthy of disdain as it is, begin to cover the collapse of Western civilization.
A quarter century ago, there was reason to hope that Eastern insights into consciousness could bring new life into Western spiritual enervation. That’s beyond wishful thinking now, and nears delusion as America descends deeper into a toxic brew of division, fear and hatred.
The question is no longer what will happen in America, or even Western civilization. It is: Is there is an opening for humankind to change course in our age?
A great woodland hawk, its stippled wings and striped tail feathers flashing in the late afternoon sun, descends in a graceful glide to streamside across from where I sit. Though I don’t move a muscle, it spots me in less than a second and is off again.
The sight of it remains with me for the entire hour-plus meditation, not in memory and time, but indelibly on the heart. It will, I think, remain within until I die, and perhaps beyond death itself.
In actuality, death is inextricable from life. It draws near, without fear, with the complete stillness of thought and ending of psychological time through passive awareness gathering intense attention to what is.
That which is utterly beyond words comes with the full, fearless awareness of death, which is in every breath. Death in this sense is synonymous with the immanent, the numinous.
There is no such thing as ‘my truth.’ If one sees things as they are within and without, and has insight into them, it is simply truth. Not fixed or permanent or absolute truth, but the truth at that moment, irrespective of our egocentric “perspectives.”