The Private Sea
8. The evidence of things not seen
Baudelaire complained in his time that ignorant persons thought
of the hashish dream as a kind of magic theater where all sorts
of miraculous things occur: wonders and marvels, all unexpected.
But in fact, said the poet, hashish has no miracles to offer;
all it does is exaggerate the natural, raising the same number
to a higher power, and the hashish dream therefore will always
be "the son of its father," reflecting the thoughts
and impressions of the dreamer. Hashish is a mirror"a
magnifying mirror, it is true, but only a mirror"and a
man will see revealed in it "nothing except himself."
Evans-Wentz suggested that a wanderer on the Bardo plane would
see the gods of his own pantheon: a Christian would see the Christian
Heaven, a Moslem would see the Moslem Paradise, an American Indian
would see the Happy Hunting Ground, and a materialist would experience
after-death visions "as negative and as empty and as deityless
as any he ever dreamt while in the human body." The Tibetans
taught, said Evans-Wentz, that the after-death state is indeed
very much like the ordinary dream state, and whatever visions
a man might see on the Bardo are "due entirely to his own
There is no question that a subject under psychedelic influence
is extremely vulnerable to suggestion, including autosuggestion,
and this might support the contention that the drug movement's
Eastern orientation has been imposed upon it by an Eastern drug
literature. One might also consider the fact that the drug experience
historically has had Oriental connotations, for what could be
a very prosaic reason. The hashish and opium of the nineteenth
century came from the Orient, and the Eastern imagery which so
haunted the European drug fiend might easily be explained as mental
association. Even today the mere word "drug" may often
serve to summon up visions of Fu Manchu and other sinister-looking
The power-of-suggestion argument should not and cannot be lightly
dismissed. What can be dismissed, however, is the contention that
the psychedelic mystique is "quasi-Eastern" or "nebulous."
Of course it is nebulous, as we suggested earlier, but that is
neither here nor there; it is no more nebulous than any other
metaphysical assertion which cannot be submitted to empirical
demonstration. And it is not quasi-Eastern. It is Eastern.
If the problem was only one of imagery, suggestibility would no
doubt be sufficient to account for it. There is no objective reason
why LSD should evoke an image of a Chinese pagoda rather than
a Western church, or Ishwara rather than Jehovah. As Evans-Wentz
indicated, even the Eastern literature acknowledges the subjective
factor as far as visual content is concernedand it can afford
to do so precisely because it regards the Bardo visions as delusional:
the phenomenal gods and paradises and hells do not really exist
except in the mind of the dreamer, and that is just the point
the Eastern philosopher is trying to make. It is only the Clear
Light which matters and is real. Similarly, no particular importance
is attached to the hallucinatory period in psychedelic sessions;
all that matters is the central experience, which corresponds
with the apprehension of the Clear Light. Nor is the terminology
used of any significance. You can refer to the central experience
as the Clear Light, or as God, or as anything you wish. The question
which remains, then, is whether or not the central experience
can be imposed by suggestion.
As for Baudelaire's statement, a drug cultist could easily turn
it around to suit his own purposes. The psychedelics do indeed
offer us a mirror, and a very accurate one at that. When a man
looks into it, he sees nothing except himselfand this is just
as it should be. That is the whole idea, right there. There is
nothing else to be revealed.
We should keep in mind that the Eastern movement did not grow
out of the drug movement; if anything, it was the other way around.
The Eastern movement was well established when Dr. Hofmann made
his serendipitous discovery, and the factors behind that leap
to the East had little or nothing to do with suggestion. The Eastern
movement absorbed the drug movement, and it did so because the
central experience seemed to lend itself very well to an Eastern
interpretation. But why weren't the Eastern implications obvious
to begin with? Why did they have to be interpreted? Why didn't
psychedelic subjects know they were having Eastern experiences?
Why did they
have to be told? A possible answer, of course, is that they did
knowbut did not know that they knew. They knew they were having
some sort of an experience, but how were they to know it was an
Eastern experience unless they had some knowledge of Eastern philosophy?
If they did have the proper background, they might have recognized
their experience as Eastern in natureand certainly somebody
must have done this at some point, or how else was the connection
made in the first place? Huxley had a mescaline experience, and
he decided it was Eastern; nobody had to tell him so: he told
other people. But Huxley of course was Eastern-oriented; maybe
it was autosuggestion. And so the circle turns vicious.
Let us turn, then, to the people Huxley told, assuming they were
not Eastern-oriented themselves, and let us ask why they believed
him. They had an experience perhaps, and they did not know what
to make of it; there was nothing they knew with which to compare
it; they did not have the vocabulary to verbalize their intuitions
or even to think them through; the concepts involved were new
and startling, completely bewildering. Then Huxley and other Eastern
enthusiasts provided a vocabulary and suggested various alternatives
and possible conclusions which might be drawn from the experience.
Somehow it seemed to fit, and people said, "Yes. That's it.
That's exactly what it was." An analogy might be a robbery
victim who flips through the photographs in a police rogues' gallery
and then declares, "There, that's the man." Such victims
unfortunately have been notoriously poor witnesses, and even their
certainty leaves a reasonable doubt that a reliable identification
has been made. Still, could a full-scale movement be generated
by suggestion alone, with nothing substantial to support the suggestion?
Surely there is something in the drug experience which makes the
Eastern interpretation at least appear tenable. Furthermore, supporting
evidence is provided by related developments in radical theology,
where a leap to the East also is occurring, and without benefit
of LSD. Watts and Huxley cannot be blamed for that.
Nor can they be blamed for the results of those turn-of-the-century
experiments with nitrous oxide. Significantly, James found that
the anesthetic (psychedelic) revelation tended to suggest "a
monistic insight, in which the other in its various forms
appears absorbed into the One."
Even so, from either point of view, we still are left with a Scotch
verdict: not proven. And there the matter might rest, were it
not for a final factor which has to do with mysticism as such.
The fact is that Western church authorities have generally regarded
spontaneous mysticism with a measure of distrust and sometimes
with open hostility. There is first of all the obvious objection
that the mystic in a sense eliminates the middleman: he deals
directly with God and thereby undermines the church's assumed
right to act as religious arbiter. The second objection is less
obvious but more important. It seems mysticism has shown a distressing
tendency toward pantheism and monism, and the saintly mystic has
often been a source of acute embarrassment to his church. We are
talking now about Western mysticism. We are saying that Western
mysticism has tended to be very much like Eastern mysticism; or,
more accurately, all mysticism, Eastern and Western, has tended
to be the same. James noted as a general trait of the mystic range
of consciousness that it "is on the whole pantheistic and
optimistic." He said further:
This overcoming of all the usual barriers between the individual
and the Absolute is the great mystic achievement. In mystic states
we become one with the Absolute and we become aware of our oneness.
This is the everlasting and triumphant mystical tradition, hardly
altered by differences of clime and creed. In Hinduism, in Neoplatonism,
in Sufism, in Christian mysticism, in Whitmanism, we find the
same recurring note, so that there is about mystical utterances
an eternal unanimity which ought to make a critic stop and think
. . .
Churchmen had stopped to think about it long before James made
the suggestion, and they did not like what they were thinking.
Mysticism too often had quite a lot to say about God's immanence
and not very much to say about his transcendence; it had a lot
to say about the divine encounter, but in many cases that seemed
to imply a monistic absorption, not union through love.
Traditionally, the concern of the church has been in three areas:
(1) the institutional, (2) the rational, and (3) the mystical.
In the first, the church has sought to create a community of faithful
with a heritage of common belief; in the second, it has sought
to adduce logical proofs for the existence of God; in the third,
it has sought to put church members in direct contact with the
source of their faith. And every age has given these elements
Roman Catholicism has had its great mystic saintsSaint Theresa,
Saint John of the Crossbut it also has had such thorns in the
side as Master Eckhart, a Dominican, whose mystical utterances
in fourteenth-century Germany sounded very much like pantheism.
The rational Saint Thomas largely ignored mysticism, and Roman
Catholicism took the position that God's existence could be proved
intellectually. A severe reaction against mysticism occurred in
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, led by the Jesuits and
provoked in part by the excesses of the Quietists (Molinos, Madame
Guyon, Fenelon). Quietism was accused of perverting the contemplative
aspect of mystical experience; it recommended total annihilation
of the mind, of the self, of all desire, including even the desire
for salvation; it blurred or erased altogether the distinction
between evil and good, man and God; wholly passive, it eschewed
all thoughts and acts of service or devotion; it sought divine
inspiration in the "soft and savory sleep of nothingness";
in its extreme form it produced a state of "mystic death"
which bordered on catatonia. The practical and beloved Saint Theresa,
reformer of the Carmelite Order, had combined the active and the
contemplative life, as indeed had Jesus before her. By comparison,
the Quietists appeared apathetic and amoral, if not immoral; they
were charged with "idle basking in the divine presence,"
and their doctrines were condemned by Popes Innocent XI and Innocent
XII. Mysticism in all its manifestations came under suspicion,
and Catholics were advised that the mystical experience was a
gift from God, not to be sought after. While this attitude was
later softened, the Catholic reaction to Quietism quite likely
has yet to run its course; nor can there be much doubt that the
Vatican would tend to make a mental equation between the demand
for a direct person-to-God relationship and the sort of thinking
that resulted in the Reformation. Antagonism toward a mystical
emphasis also was evident in Rome's dispute with the Catholic
Modernists during the early years of the twentieth century. The
Modernists could scarcely be accused of Quietismthey were in
fact activists who believed in living their faith, and they strove
for a liberal synthesis of the new science and orthodox belief.
But they also were at odds with their church's stress on the rational
knowledge of God, and especially so with the revival of the Scholastic
tradition which was implicit in the emergence of Neo-Thomism.
Rejecting religious intellectualism, they called instead for a
religion of the inner way: of the heart, not the mind. Pope Pius
X described their synthesis as a "synthesis of all heresies."
Their doctrines were condemned in 1907, and the Modernist movement
was crushed by excommunication.
We have already mentioned the mysticism of the Jewish Cabala,
and in the following chapter we shall discuss at some length the
flowering of Hasidism in the philosophical thought of Martin Buber.
Turning to Protestantism, we find, as might be expected, that
the mystic at first met with a friendly reception: the desire
for a personal intimacy with God was one of the root causes of
the Christian schism. Luther himself was a mystic. But even within
Protestantism, restrictions were placed upon the complete freedom
of intuitive experiencewhich led in turn to such developments
as creedless Quakerism and the Quaker-meeting concept of personal
communion with the indwelling Christ: the Inner Light. In the
present century, Protestant mysticism came under fire from the
heavy guns of Karl Barth and Emil Brunner. The barrage was devastating
(or seemed to be), and, outside the revivalist's tent, spontaneous
inner experience gave way to a general emphasis upon creeds and
community of worship. Maybe it was not so much Barth as it was
the overall decline in religious convictionand therefore also
in religious awe. Maybe it was just an end-product of secularization.
But in any case it occurred. Or such at least was the opinion
of Carl Jung and others who warned that the churches to their
peril were ignoring their fundamental mission and their basic
source of strength.
As the church critics saw it, that fundamental mission was to
put men in personal touch with their Godto encourage, in other
words, the divine-human encounter. And that basic source of strength
was the mystical perception of the nonrational mind.
Such an argument makes mystical perception the primary source
of religious faith. To follow the argument, however, it is
necessary first to define faith.
A skeptic has defined faith as believing in something you know
is not true. And many devout persons might actually agree with
that. As Kierkegaard expressed the same idea, faith would not
be faith if there were any rational basis for it. Faith and reason
are mutually exclusive, the one beginning where the other ends,
and a faith based on reason would be a contradiction in terms;
it would in fact be reason, not faith: just one more example of
ratiocination and logical analysis. Absolute faith recognizes
the utter impossibility of its claim; to make the movement of
absolute faith, you must first make the movement of absolute resignationand
then you believe anyway, "by virtue of the absurd."
And this is faith. The knight of faith knows that "the only
thing that can save him is the absurd, and this he grasps by faith."
He acknowledges the impossibility, "and that very instant
he believes the absurd; for, if without recognizing the impossibility
with all the passion of his soul and with all his heart, he should
wish to imagine that he has faith, he deceives himself."
Paul Tillich expressed a similar view, insisting that absolute
faith must be preceded by absolute doubt and despair. You confess
that existence is meaningless, and then you accept your existence
in spite of thisand this "courage to be" in
the face of meaninglessness is in itself meaningful. Where does
it come from, if not from Being itself? What does it represent,
if not the power and the purpose of the godhead? "The act
of accepting meaninglessness is in itself a meaningful act. It
is an act of faith." And so on. But it is possible to define
faith in an entirely different way as well, and perhaps an inkling
of this can be found in Hebrews: "Now faith is the substance
of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen."
John in his Epistle does not say that faith is based on the absurd;
he says it is based on evidence. Science is based on the
evidence of things seen. Faith is based on the evidence of things
not seen. Both, then, are forms of deduction, and they differ
only in the methods which they employ to gather their evidence:
science relies upon the rational mind or the conscious; faith
relies upon the intuitive mind or the unconscious. This is precisely
what Jung was talking about: he said the churches were ignoring
the vital role of the unconscious.
The churches perhaps were having enough trouble with science and
so were in no mood to encourage a free-wheeling mysticism which
might lead to a further erosion of orthodox dogma. But Jung and
other critics believed that religion was making its stand on the
weakest ground available. The logical proofs for God's existence
were not very convincing. Even if they were, the intellect would
reject them if instinct said no. Nor did it do any good to urge
more faith, because faith is not an effort of will but, rather,
a conviction based upon the evidence of things not seen. And the
ultimate and only source of this evidence is the unconscious.
"The unconscious," said Zen scholar Suzuki, "is
the matrix of all metaphysical assertions, of all mythology, of
all philosophy." Years before, James had suggested that the
unconscious was man's liaison to that unseen or mystical world
for which the word God is "the natural appellation."
He proposed that the unconscious sends us whispers of that other
world "even as the waters of the infinite ocean send their
waves to break among the pebbles that lie upon our shores."
He said that all of man's ideal impulses appear to originate in
that other world; if there are spiritual agencies out there,
he argued, it seems only logical that they should communicate
with us through "the subconscious continuation of our conscious
life." "If there be higher powers able to impress us,"
he said, "they may get access to us only through the subliminal
door." And Jung agreed. But he charged that the churches
were concerned only with creedswith "traditional and collective
convictions which in the case of many of their adherents are no
longer based on their own inner experience." Unreflecting
belief, he said, "is notoriously apt to disappear as soon
as one begins to think about it," and in any case it is "no
adequate substitute for inner experience." The unconscious
is "the only accessible source of religious experience."
This does not mean the unconscious is God. It is, however, "the
medium from which the religious experience seems to flow."
It is not the role of the church, said Jung, to rope men into
a social organization and reduce them to a condition of diminished
responsibility. The care of the church should be the individual
soul; the task of the church is "helping the individual to
achieve a metanoia, or rebirth of the spirit."
From this point of view, the unconscious perhaps is comparable
to a shortwave radio receiver. And the church has only one function:
it should help men tune in on God's wavelength, so to speak, and
after that it should drop out of the picture altogether, making
no effort to interpret the transmissions much less to jam them.
The challenge to church authority becomes increasingly obvious,
and indeed it has always been implicit not only in outright mysticism
but in any form of devotion which emphasizes inner experience.
The challenge was there long before the word "unconscious"
was introduced to the vocabularythe Tibetans meant the unconscious
when they spoke of the Knowerand the German theologian Friedrich
Schleiermacher as far back as 1799 was calling for a religion
based exclusively on Ansokauung und Gefühl, or intuition
and emotion. A rejection of all creeds and dogma also was fundamental
to the "spiritual Christianity" proposed four decades
ago by the Russian philosopher Nicolas Berdyaev, and many other
examples could be given. Huxley saw the urge for self-transcendence
as "a principal appetite of the soul," and that appetite
in our time has not been satisfied in church; today, "the
sole religious experience is that state of uninhibited and belligerent
euphoria which follows the ingestion of the third cocktail."
Tillich pointed to the decline of religious awe: the question
of our century perhaps was whether or not man could regain that
sense of wonder he had once known in personal communion with the
Ground of his Being.
Then came LSD.
With it has come a rebirth of awe. While some people might debate
the assertion that this is religious awe, many members of the
drug movement regard it as suchand the drug movement, as mentioned,
has already produced a number of psychedelic churches, of which
the Church of the Awakening may serve as an example. The church
was incorporated in 1963 under the laws of New Mexico by John
and Louisa Aiken, retired osteopaths. In a statement of purpose
the church defines religion in its internal aspect as "the
search within one's own consciousness for the Self, which is Being,
which is Life." And to help the search along the church administers
"the psychedelic sacrament." In a 1964 decision based
on the First Amendment, the California Supreme Court ruled that
Indian members of the Native American Church could not legally
be deprived of the peyote used in their religious ceremonies.
As a consequence of the widespread legislation against LSD, the
Church of the Awakening and similar organizations such as the
Neo-American Church and Timothy Leary's League for Spiritual Discovery
have indicated they might seek a First Amendment court test to
determine whether freedom of psychedelic religion applies also
to the paleface, and the law's ultimate decision should prove
to be of considerable interest, to say the least.
The drug cults make impressive claims. In the past, they say,
religion probably had real depth for only a minority of churchgoers.
Under the best of circumstances, a direct encounter with God was
reserved for the special few; and even for them the experience
was usually fleeting in nature. There are of course no statistics
available on mystic percentiles, but it is just possible that
psychologist Abraham H. Maslow offers us a rough clue with his
concept of the "self-actualizing" person who is capable
of achieving from time to time what Maslow has described as a
"peak experience." We shall have much more to say about
Maslow's psychology in a later chapter; for the moment, we are
concerned only with his conclusion that self-actualization is
possible for less than 1 per cent of the adult population. If
peak experience and mystical experience are similar, and if Maslow's
figure is reasonably accurate, it is rather interesting to find
at the other end of the mental spectrum that schizophrenia is
also said to affect about 1 per cent of the population. By comparison,
the studies cited previously suggest that psychedelics can provide
a mystical religious experience for up to 90 per cent of the population,
which is certainly a considerable improvement. Now, say the cultists,
with LSD it is possible for almost anybody to commune with God,
any time he wants to, and for hours at a stretch. Now the common
man can share the mystical visions of the saints themselves, and
it is no longer necessary to spend ten or twenty years in a Zen
monastery to achieve true satori.
The drug movement says to the churches: "Here, at last, this
is what we were looking for, and never finding. This is what people
really want. What do you have to offer in its place?" And
so orthodoxy and the psychedelic experience arrive at their collision
The institutional challenge is serious, if you accept the premise
that psychedelic experience is actually mystical experience. Obviously
the churches cannot compete with the drugs in promoting that experience,
even if they wished to. It remains to be asked whether the experience
should be promoted whether in fact it threatens a jet-age Quietismand
there are arguments on both sides, to be discussed later. But
what about the doctrinal challenge? Is it really true that the
central drug experience confirms the Eastern ideas we have mentioned?
And why do these ideas have so much appeal for Westerners in this
day and age?
To begin with, psychedelic experience is closer to Zen than it
is to anything else the East has to offer. And Zen is a unique
religion, even in the East. It appears to be monistic and pantheistic,
but actually it is not. Unlike Hinduism, it does not indulge in
elaborate metaphysics; as far as possible it avoids words altogether,
and the student is advised to let the mildew grow on his lips.
Basically anti-intellectual, Zen stresses intuition and the direct
personal experience of reality. As Suzuki put it, Zen seeks only
to grasp "the central fact of life," which is found
only in the here and now. It is aimed at those "who die of
hunger while sitting beside the rice bag." Unlike other schools
of Buddhism, it does not regard the world as illusory, an epiphenomenon
of the mind; like Saint Thomas, it rejects any dichotomy between
body and spirit (as it rejects all other dualistic concepts):
in essence it is a yes-saying to life and to the world. Suzuki
was at pains to refute the idea that Zen is pantheistic. Zen neither
confirms nor denies a transcendent Godanother dualismand
if Zen seems strangely silent about God, that is only because
all statements are limiting. If asked what God is, however, a
Zen master might say, "Three pounds of flax." And this
sounds pantheistic. If a Hindu said it, it would be pantheistic.
But the Zen master's statement has nothing to do with such ideas;
in calling attention to something quite prosaic, the Zen master
is simply affirming the holiness of the commonplace in the moment
being lived. He might just as easily have eaten a peach, gone
for a walkor slapped his pupil in the face again. Since satori
can hardly be distinguished from the psychedelic experience, it
is significant that Zen scholarship has not found in this insight
any necessary implication of pantheism or monism; since Zen scholarship
represents centuries of study devoted to the very subject which
concerns them, immanence-minded drug cultists might find cause
to re-examine their experience in the light of Zen.
Still, the sense of immanence under psychedelic influence is very
pronounced. It is overwhelming. And after all, as we have already
said, it is not necessary for an orthodox Westerner to reject
the concept altogether: it is possible to conceive of God as both
transcendent and immanent. To borrow an example which has
been used before, Shakespeare is immanent in the characters of
The Tempest. In him they live and move and have their Being.
But Shakespeare also transcends his characters, in the sense that
they do not exhaust his Being; the characters are Shakespeare,
but Shakespeare is something more than Prospero and Trinculo.
In the same sense, the indwelling God acts from within, "through
the path of immanence." He still transcends the world. But
the world might fail to recognize this. The very fact of immanence
could well blind men to God's transcendent character: in the psychedelic
state especially, the part could easily mistake itself for the
whole. As Baudelaire saw it, the hashish eater imagines himself
to be Godand never thinks to ask himself the haunting question,
"Might there not be another God?" Or to put it another
way, "Might there not be more God?" Thus the
psychedelic experience neither absolutely confirms nor absolutely
denies God's transcendence. If it confirms anything, it confirms
his immanence. And there is nothing in the experience which necessarily
rules out an immanent God who is also transcendent.
Just as different ages have emphasized either the mystical or
the rational aspect of religion, so too have immanence and transcendence
been in and out of fashion. Saint Thomas, as might be expected,
had attempted in his time to avoid either one extreme or the other,
offering instead a synthesis of immanence and transcendence. Calvinism,
on the other hand, insisted upon a majestic and omnipotent God
who utterly transcended the pitiful race of man, and transcendence
also was central to the Deism of Voltaire and others for whom
God was the Great Watchmaker: having created the world and its
laws, he had gone off to exist in complete isolation from his
creation. The mystics for their part preached the immanence of
God; throughout history, in fact, whenever orthodoxy has made
God too remote and austere, the mystic prophets have appeared
from the wilderness to reassert his immanence, and respect for
immanence has gone hand in hand with an emphasis upon inner experience
in religious devotion. Immanentist concepts were given powerful
expression in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, both in
literature and philosophy. But the first part of the twentieth
century saw the emergence of a kind of neo-Calvinism, and Karl
Barth again was in large part responsible for the development:
his objection to mysticism necessarily included a concomitant
objection to mysticism's accent on immanence, and the result was
a renewed appreciation of divine transcendence.
It is possible, however, that the neglect of immanence has been
at least partly to blame for the decline of religious enthusiasm
in this era of technology and secularization. A wholly transcendent
God is probably least compatible with modern science and modern
experiencehe is the kind of God modern man finds hardest to
acceptand it does the churches no good to argue that this kind
of God is a caricature. It does no good to insist that the churches
have not preached this kind of God, and it does no good to argue
that theology perhaps has proposed an entirely different kind
of God. Doubtless we give theology and philosophy much more credit
than they deserve. A great philosopher decides something, and
we imagine that he has decided for his entire generation, if not
for the century in which he lived; this school of opinion gives
way to that school of opinion, and we suppose that mankind has
been following the contest like a football match, with critical
interest, and that everybody knows whether this side or that side
has the ball at the moment. If the players would look around,
however, they would find that the crowd is not paying much attention
to the game, or does not understand it, or finds it hard to keep
an eye on the ball. Of course the wholly transcendent God is a
caricaturebut a caricature by definition is a distortion or
exaggeration of an actual characteristic, and an emphasis on transcendence
has been a characteristic of Western theology. Indeed, this characteristic
has mainly served to distinguish Western from Eastern religion,
and it should hardly surprise us to find that a desire to preserve
that distinction has led to an undue emphasis upon it in the public
mind. "Do you believe in God?" Ask the common man that
question, and he will assume you are referring to a transcendent
figure of some sort. Ask the uncommon man the same question; he
still will assume that you are referring to something along those
lines. Of course he knows better, but he takes it for granted
that you do not, when you ask the question. He may say, "Well,
that depends what you mean by God." The question itself has
come to imply that caricature of caricatures, the bearded monarch
on the marble throneand that image is inferred even in those
cases when it is not actually implied. Especially is it inferred
when the word God is spoken from the pulpit of a church. The idea
is ridiculous, of course, and that is precisely the reason modern
man no longer believes in it. Unfortunately, he still thinks he
is being asked to believe in it, and that is the root of the problem.
Eastern philosophy, on the other hand, does not ask him to believe
in it, nor does the psychedelic experience ask him to believe
in it, and the credit both give to immanence is without question
responsible for much of the current interest in Eastern ideas
and in LSD.
The churches had been complacent. Perhaps they imagined that the
caricature no longer existed, and so they made no effort to correct
it or to offer their parishioners a more plausible alternative.
But the caricature did exist, although few people believed in
itor in anything else for that matter, as a direct consequence.
The continued existence of the caricature resulted inevitably
in a reaction against it, and necessarily in a drastic reaction.
The idea was so deeply embedded in popular theology, and churchmen
were so ignorant of this fact, that Altizer had to kill off the
transcendent God altogether before the churchmen displayed any
visible signs of alarm. Then LSD came along. If they now hope
to preserve any vestige of transcendence, the churches might be
well advised to take a fresh look at the weight of their teachingand
start talking immanence.
With the decline of Barthianism, this has already happened in
radical theology. Basic to contemporary developments in this area
have been the concept of immanence and the direct inner experience
of that immanence. In Protestantism the reaction against stark
transcendence can be traced progressively from Tillich to the
New Theologians to the Death of God theologians. In Judaism the
voice of Martin Buber has been heard. In Roman Catholicism immanence
is the very heart of Teilhard de Chardin's theology.
But immanence has always been a dangerous idea, as we have indicated.
Open the door to immanence and pantheism tries to slip in with
it. This too has been happening.
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