As the world plunges headlong into the maelstrom of totalitarianism and the collapse of civilization, Perennialist 1 teachers organize Transformative Groups, making arcane wisdom available to humankind essential for the species' survival.
The Perennialist transformative group is one of two ordering structures most effective for adapting higher knowledge to the present time, the other being the enlightening group format. The arcane knowledge of personal transfor- mation and group symbiosis 2 is absolutely essential to humankind's survival and has been revealed by such Perennialist teachers as Hermes, Krishna, Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Jesus, Paul, and Boethius.
The Esoteric Teaching of Transformative Groups
Perennialist savants all teach the esoteric wisdom of individual transformation, group solidarity, and group reasoning. You may have wondered why advanced spiritual teachers all create close-knit coalitions of seekers and initiates--Egyptian hierophant temples, Pythagoras' community, Plato's Academy, the esoteric Christian communities, the Neo-Platonic academies in Alexandria, the Cathedral schools, St Bernard's Cistercian Order, the Cambridge Platonist group, and so on. There are multifarious reasons for this as we shall see, but three of the major purposes for forming a very select circle are:
To provide a new organ of transformation utilizing a unique adaptation of the Perennial wisdom, to which students may seek admittance after undergoing prerequisite preparation
So the teacher can create a hierarchy of levels within the group through which to carry on her transformative operations
To teach, through experience, the veiled mysteries of how groups of people can think and interact together at a higher level of consciousness
Transformative groups--ageless spiritual aristocracies which disseminate wisdom to humankind in each historic era--conduct themselves according to Perennialist precepts. Thus, they contain in their very existence and modes of operation the mystery of how transformation is carried out through group activities and how human groups can function at the highest level.
Extra-normal elements manifest themselves in all advanced Perennialist groups:
These same paranormal phenomena become apparent whenever Perennialist knowledge of group symbiosis is put into practice.
"This creative result [of higher group thinking] will take place in proportion as the group has reached in its discussion the spirit of worship, whether or not it is a religious group and uses this term. What happens is that a truly spiritual atmosphere pervades the group process. The essential difference between a group discussion which is truly religious and one which is irreligious is at this point: that, in a discussion which is religious, the group is earnestly seeking to find in any situation that which represents for that group the highest and best that they know or can discover."
Harrison S. Elliott, (1938), The Process of Group Thinking
Like all esoteric knowledge, the principles of Perennialist transformation, group solidarity, and group reasoning seem prosaic and lackluster to the ordinary mind. This is one of the many reasons why esoteric teaching is reserved for those who have demonstrated the ability to understand and appreciate higher knowledge.
The Perennialist Principles of Distinct Human Groupings
The knowledge of how to organize students and followers into separate general (exoteric) and select (esoteric) groups is part of the hidden Perennialist wisdom concerning how humans must be arranged in order for them to realize their full potential. Plato saw "true philosophers" as a supra-human group distinct from the general public who had no interest in higher knowledge.
"The genuine practitioners of philosophy will be but a small remnant. . . Those who belong to this small class have tasted how sweet and blessed a possession philosophy is. . . . The many refuse to believe that philosophy is worthwhile, for they have never seen genuine philosophy realized; they have seen only a conventional imitation of philosophy, consisting of words artificially brought together, not like these of ours having a natural unity."
Plato, The Commonwealth, Book 6
The Perennialist savant Jesus of Nazareth taught about an Empyreal 3 Fellowship which he said is not visible because its essence is "within us." The Greek words referring to this Empyreal Fellowship in the New Testament have been mistranslated "Kingdom of heaven" or "Kingdom of God:"
Basileia: fellowship, brotherhood, governance, sovereignty, royal power, dominion, a rule or reign, kingdom, an exercise of authority
Ouranos: the realm of Higher Being--the Empyrean, heaven
As we examine Jesus' life and teachings, it is unmistakable that he was a sage within the Perennial Tradition proclaiming the sovereignty of the Empyreal Realm and organizing his followers in transformative groups, a general circle of followers and a more select cell of apostles. Jesus clearly made the distinction in his teachings
between the exoteric, which were for the general public, and the esoteric, those reserved for the select group of initiates.
"Then when they were by themselves, his close followers and the twelve asked about the teaching stories he used, and he told them: 'The secret of The Empyreal Fellowship has been given to you. But to those who from lack of effort or interest are not deserving of receiving esoteric knowledge, everything remains in allegories, because even when they are allowed to see, they do not make the effort to discern the hidden wisdom; and when they're allowed to hear, they don't go beneath the surface to understand the deeper truth. They are not given more profound information, so that their rejection of knowledge will not make them any more blameworthy than is just.'
"So Jesus taught the masses his message through the use of teaching stories, through which their minds could comprehend at whatever level they were. He did not speak to the people in general at all without using allegories, although in private he divulged the esoteric meaning of his teachings to his disciples." Mark 4
Eyes to See That Will Not See
A young man approached Jesus and said: "I feel I am capable of understanding the deeper truths of your teaching stories that it is said you divulge to your chosen disciples."
"Let us see if you are correct," said Jesus. "Here is a question which will tell us. If I say, 'My father's son is not my brother,' whom do I mean?"
The young man couldn't work it out.
"Jesus told him: "I mean me, of course." Jesus smiled. "I recommend you continue studying the teaching stories I tell the people and perhaps later you'll be ready for deeper knowledge."
The young man returned home and the villagers asked him what he had learned.
He told them: "If I say, 'My father's son is not my brother,' whom do I mean?"
The villagers all spoke at once: "You!"
"You're wrong!" the young man exclaimed, "my father's son is Jesus--he told me so!"
The Necessity of Transformative Groups
Before exploring the hidden wisdom concerning individual transformation, it's necessary for us to comprehend why such rescuing and transformative groups are absolutely essential relative to present circumstances.
As the world is falling apart, it is only such advanced brotherhoods that have the higher knowledge as to how to transform human character while at the same time preserving the essentials of human civilization.
Transformative groups provide the most effective organizational and strategic means for struggling against personal and social ignorance and tyranny.
These coalitions of advanced thinkers provide effective laboratories for experimentation and training in consensus decision-making which will produce innovative concepts and procedures to use in resuscitating human culture.
These initiate echelons provide a sustaining environment of open, positive interpersonal interchange in which individuals can develop to their fullest.
Transformative fellowships provide security in numbers and commitment.
Transformative groups provide the substructure of a new society for future generations.
These groupings of initiates provide a supportive experimental environment in which new ideas, art forms, and approaches can be tried, tested, and nurtured.
"The torch of civilization is carried . . . by a small minority of restless and enterprising men. The members of this minority work in countless ways, and there is an immense variation in the nature and value of their several activities. . . What they always aim at, whether by design or only instinctively, is the improvement of human life on this earth. One of them may do no more than devise a new and better rat trap, or a new way to make beans, or a new phrase, but some other, on some near tomorrow, may synthesize edible proteins or square the circle. Out of this class come not only all the men who enrich civilization, but also all those who safeguard it. They are the guardians of what it has gained in the past as well as the begetters of all it gains today and will gain hereafter. Left to the great herd it would deteriorate inevitably, as it has deteriorated in the past whenever the supply of impatient and original men has fallen off. This is the true secret of the rise and fall of cultures. They rise so long as they produce a sufficiency of superior individuals, and they begin to fall the moment the average man approximates their best."
H. L. Mencken, Minority Report
The Requisite Capabilities of Transformative Groups
Initiate echelons or transformative groups are composed of persons who have developed to the point of possessing extra-normal powers:
Social and spiritual awareness
The capability of working in the spiritual world to bring about effects in the material world
The ability to commune with kindred souls in supra-normal ways
An awareness of and a participation in the struggle between the old world and the new world
The four areas above are explored in detail in the author's new book:
Portals to Higher Consciousness. In this essay, we'll concentrate on transformative operations related to an advanced group.
The difficulty with discussing transformative groups is that these
esoteric fellowships are completely unknown to and beyond the comprehension of the average person, yet most people assume they know what they are when we speak of them. They presume that the phrase "transformative groups" refers to such collections of people as pictured to the right in which a guru holds forth to his disciples.
As is often the case with uninformed people, the mere fact that they're familiar with the words describing a reality leads them to assume that they comprehend what that reality is. Since they feel they know the meaning of the words "transformative" and "group," they assume they fully comprehend what "transformative group" must mean. It's similar to an unenlightened person presuming they understand precisely what is meant by "Platonic dialectic" because they believe they understand what is meant by the terms "Platonic" and "dialectic."
The Varieties of "Spiritual" Groups
It's necessary, therefore, to distinguish between various types of groups which claim to be "spiritual" 4 or religious. 5 It's difficult for many people to realize that most of the groups that claim to assist individuals develop higher awareness are in fact counterfeits. Participants in such groups may feel they're "making great personal improvement," or "becoming closer to God," or "getting in touch with their inner self," or some such self-delusion. But the ultimate test is whether or not the person experiences genuine transformation or not.
Transformation is the touchstone of spiritual development. Transformation refers to:
Metamorphosis of a person from one level of consciousness to a higher one
Regeneration: the reunion of personal consciousness with the Universal Mind involving "spiritual death" and rebirth
Actual transmutation of the psychic and physical elements within our present frail and imperfect nature into a divinized condition
Achieving contact with a Higher Consciousness so that one experiences intuition, inspiration, and bliss
What is achieved is not some nice, minor revision in one's mental framework or one's behavior, it is a physical and mental rebirth into the full consciousness of one's divine nature and powers as a "Son or Daughter of God."
Transformation involves the constant, unending endeavor of discovering aspects of immaturity or sleep in yourself and rising above those to a higher awareness. One of the essential ways of telling if you're experiencing transformation is if you're regularly discovering traits and behaviors in yourself of which you were previously unaware, negative elements that controlled you without your being cognizant of them.
In reference to our touchstone of transformation we can distinguish between various types of groups which claim to be "spiritual:"
Cults: groups created by deluded, egomaniacal persons who create dependency in their followers, manipulating them for their own selfish interests, making the group into a personality cult
Religious coteries dominated by self-appointed "spiritual masters," priests, ministers, rabbis, mullahs, or "counselors" who produce phony feelings in their victims of "spiritual upsurge," "release from mental turmoil," "merging with other people," and other bogus sentiments and impressions--to the extreme of brainwashing the followers to destroy their religious or political enemies
Conduit groups which transmit transformative knowledge but are affected by the knowledge to a limited degree, sometimes almost not at all
Deteriorated or derelict groups: those which once possessed a measure of transformative knowledge or force but have lost the original impetus or endowment
Genuine transformative groups whose teachers have been able to attain personal transmutation and have achieved the capability of assisting their students to attain personal transformation as well
Conduit groups exhibit interesting characteristics, serving as channels through which transformative knowledge is transmitted, while experiencing little or no personal growth. These groups serve a limitedly useful purpose in making higher knowledge available to others, whether or not they benefit from their action. Very often such groups are created by a self-deluded "master" who has experienced little personal transformation and is incapable of assisting his followers to achieve spiritual regeneration.
The Perennial Tradition possesses a transcendent power whose operations are amazing to observe. Even when false teachers try, unsuccessfully, to distort or misuse its concepts and methods, the tradition is able to use this failed effort as part of its teaching to show students how not to behave and how its detractors inadvertently assist its own operations.
An interesting example of the Perennial Tradition's indirect operation is how the death of a teacher becomes a part of the total process of transformation.
"But if a Sufi Teacher dies, or there is a gap in the teaching, what then? The interesting thing is that that very gap is a part of the training. You may explain certain things to a child: shall we say tell him not to do certain things. Then you will pretend to go out of the house and observe him. According to how well he has learned, so will he react. . .
"After the disappearance from the field of a Sufi teacher, the followers will divide themselves into groups, in accordance with their strengths and weaknesses. Some will assume control of others. They may be good or bad, and this will be shown by their reactions to the second teacher when he arrives. If they realise that he is their teacher, then they have merely been developing themselves and can mature. But if they have become atrophied, they will be too blind to recognise the baraka (spiritual force) of the very man for whose appearance they have been prepared. They may attach themselves, in default, to some other group. Again, well and good: providing that they return to the mainstream of teaching when it is offered to them again. . . . They will realise, if they are sufficiently developed, that the person who appears to be the 'second' teacher is in reality the first in importance. If, however, they have developed a too-strong attachment for the husk, they will try to guard the husk, and they will be lost to the activity."
A genuine teacher does not begin teaching or forming a transformative group out of personal desire or egoism. Her own transformation process, directed by her teacher (which may be her everyday life-experience or her Higher Self) unfolds in such a way that her work7 leads to her receiving inspiration to take up teaching and forming a group. Specious "teachers" concoct teaching systems to magnify their sense of self-importance. With a genuine teacher, the need for involvement with a teaching group emerges through the natural course of events.
Transformation as the Touchstone
By using transformation as our touchstone, we're able to discern the precise nature of groups which claim to be "spiritual." This assumes that persons applying the touchstone actually understand the essence of
transformation and have themselves experienced spiritual death and regeneration to a higher level of awareness and power. If we discover no genuine transmutation and spiritual growth in the leaders and members of a group, we can be sure we're dealing with a cult, religious group, conduit group, or derelict organization--the blind leading the blind.
Transformation is an ongoing, never-ending process. If we don't see continual change and improvement in the leaders and members, then the group has devolved to an inert, impotent organization--no matter how alive and thriving it may seem on the outside. The counterfeit organization may achieve widespread fame, publishing books, presenting lectures, its leaders appearing on TV talk shows; but its inner barrenness and deceit will be clearly evident to the spiritually discerning.
There is no worse moral transgression than to imagine that an inner and true virtue does not exist to be perceived, by falsely identifying and attributing merit to a counterfeit phenomenon as that inner and true virtue.
From our discussion, it should be clear that the prospective student has his work cut out for him in sorting through the many counterfeit groups and teachers to find the authentic. He should view this as a challenge in developing a genuine capability of discerning the Real.
"The ancient Gnosis we may define as that knowledge of the nature of Man and of his place in the Universe which transcends the mere appearance of things as presented to the senses and the intellect, and which contacts Reality in a region of pure Truth. The beginning of this knowledge, therefore, is the realization that things are not what they seem; and no one who is a crude realist . . . can make any approach to this super-knowledge."
William Kingsland, The Gnosis or Ancient Wisdom in the Christian Scriptures
Specific changes in attitude and perspective are necessary before a seeker can hope to be admitted to study with a genuinely transformative teacher. Among other things, the seeker must realize that "things are not what they seem" and that how he sees himself is largely an ego-serving illusion, among other things. Perennialist teachers make it clear that preparatory screening and study is required before a would-be student can benefit from or be admitted to advanced teaching. An applicant to a program of study must have certain qualifications, just as a person applying for admission to a medical school must have undergone prerequisite training in biology, chemistry, anatomy, and other essential fields of study.
A transformative group thus provides two kinds of material for students:
Material of a preparatory nature to assist the prospective student to make essential changes and improvements in his character, attitudes, and behavior
Transformative material which is used in instructing students after they are admitted to the program of study
"Perennialist knowledge is like a powerful medicine, which cures strong bodies and kills weak organisms. At one and the same time, this puissant wisdom elevates the mentation which can understand, overcoming its shortcomings, while also killing the weak understanding of some people."
Ibn Hazm, al-Tahiri, a Perennialist teacher of Cordova
We can be certain that a group that omits screening and doesn't require preparation of a prospective student, has the characteristics of one of the false "spiritual groups" we discussed above. Since such a group does not have the capability of engaging in genuine transformative operations, it's reduced to conditioning the mind of its victims to accept its dogmas without thought. The benighted converts will be programmed to blind loyalty to the leader.
It might seem that such fake groups would be easily recognizable, but if we examine the actual workings of most organizations--professions, educational institutions, businesses, among many others--we'll discover that they have essentially the same characteristics as the false "spiritual groups" in terms of how they recruit, train, manage, and evaluate their members.
A genuine transformative teacher must provide some kind of experiential material at every stage of the study program. Even preparatory material must include procedures which allow the prospective student to experience what transformation actually involves.
A teacher who merely talks about transformation, providing nothing but written material of a didactic nature, is one who clearly has not attained personal transformation himself and doesn't know how to assist students achieve spiritual insight. The Perennialist teaching operation is not the mere delivery of a body of knowledge, its essence is providing whatever is needed to assist students in their spiritual development, which must include experiential operations: study material and active exercises.
Counterfeit teachers give the excuse that experiential exercises can only be made available in a face-to-face situation in a specially chosen group. There are some experiential procedures, it is true, which can only be carried out in a personal interchange context. But a genuinely transformative teacher provides experiential material throughout his teaching, including his preparatory operations--especially since both asynchronous and real-time interchange is now possible via the Internet.
Students must have enough intelligence and insight to know that a genuine teacher is not going to be a popular figure. He will not be found on prime-time television. Wealth and fame will not be of interest to him. However, because wealth and fame are the primary contemporary cultural criteria of success, a genuine teacher may make it appear that he is interested in these to deflect unsuitable students from pursuing him as a teacher.
In fact, a genuine teacher may use any appropriate means to discourage unsuitable students, so that students are required to develop finely-tuned discernment to "find" an authentic teacher. The student is learning to use his inner sense of discernment to find a teacher whose reality is authentic.
It is not a teacher's responsibility to proclaim himself as a great spiritual authority--quite the opposite. A genuine teacher will seem to most people to be a failure--because he is not preaching to thousands in Yankee Stadium like Billy Graham. He will seem excessively unassuming and retiring, because the popular model for a guru is self-advertisement and self-promotion of every possible kind.
There was once a young woman who sought out a Perennialist teacher and said to her: "I wish to achieve enlightenment--how can I achieve my wish?"
The Perennialist teacher heaved a great sigh and replied:
"There was once a young woman, just like you. She wished to achieve enlightenment and this wish had great power. Suddenly, she found herself sitting, as I am, with a young woman, like you, seated before her, asking, 'How can I achieve enlightenment?'"
The Perennialist teacher sends out a certain "signal" or "frequency" through his special knowledge of how to operate at a higher level of consciousness. He will produce finely tuned written material, images, and psychic missives that possess a specific frequency, which will resonate with those students who are "attuned" to his messages.
Resonance operates unrestrictedly to bring a teacher and a student together who are of the same spiritual frequency. Which means that if you have within you the resonance of deceit or greed, it is to that kind of teacher, with those same inner qualities, that you will be drawn. Like calls to like, truth to truth.
Bees have a natural instinct for sensing a flower through scent. They do not lose this sensing capability, so they do not have to be told about it or learn how to use it. There are very few humans today who are perceptive enough to sense the resonance of a teacher. This is a capability which has become dormant through ignorance and neglect. Not many humans are aware of this power and have to receive a teaching about it to make them aware of it's dormant existence.
Different types of seekers are drawn to corresponding types of groups. Those prospective students who want excitement and emotional stimulation will be attracted to a derivative group of the kind that appeals to their weaknesses.
Qualities Required in a Seeker
We are examining how a Perennialist teacher operates to make it possible for a properly attuned student to "find" him. Before a seeker can approach a genuine teacher he must develop the inner desire for personal transformation. In other words, he must develop a kind of divine discontent. He must have a genuine--not half-hearted--desire to improve himself--because he senses that he is less than he could be, is less in control of himself than he should be, that much of what he thinks he knows really isn't true, and that he is unaware of just how much he doesn't know.
This implies that the prospective student must be a genuine seeker--a persons who is searching for a teacher who will help him achieve transformation. It is not for the teacher to in any way seek the prospective student--through trying to appear erudite or wise or "intelligent." Only if the student possesses the awareness that he must humbly request help from the teacher will he be able to approach. Any other attitude--say the feeling that the teacher should feel honored to have such an outstanding student--makes it impossible for him to approach the teacher in a functional manner.
The teacher knows that the seeker has a need to ask humbly to receive correctly and successfully. He is aware that prospective students approach the teaching with improper attitudes. For example, some persons assume that the mere delineation of prerequisites for a program of study is a veiled attempt on the part of a teacher to solicit students.
The student must be discerning enough to realize that he does not know how to approach the teacher, what he needs , how he can learn to learn, or what the process will be in his transformation.
"Nobody can hope to arrive at illumination if he thinks that he knows what it is, and believes that he can achieve it through a well-defined path which he can conceive at the moment of starting." 9
From the beginning of the process of seeking a genuine teacher, through entry into preparatory study to personal effort toward spiritual awareness, both the teacher and the students must constantly work to achieve personal transformation. At times, one's special "teacher" is ordinary life-experience itself. This comes about through realizing and acting on certain spiritual truths:
The Divine has the power to take all human actions and use them to assist us in our evolution.
The Divine manifests through everyone and everything.
All persons receive exactly the experiences from which they can best learn what they need for their personal evolution--and at the same time for the evolution of all humankind.
The Divine creates a world which provides precisely coordinated learning experiences transcendentally matched to our current needs and capabilities.
"Everything stands for God and you see only God in all the world. . . If this is lacking, if you are not looking for God and expecting him everywhere, and in everything, you lack the [inner] birth."
The following extra-dimensional operation illustrates the principles delineated above. It involves both a transformative teaching story (which the reader may perhaps actually experience) and a situational learning 10 episode at the same time.
The Treasure Is There to Be Served, Not to Be Stolen
Three applicants for admission into an introductory study program are attending the Thursday evening group meeting of a Perennialist teacher. They are all three unaware of what they need, but eager to ask questions and solicit special attention from the teacher. As the meeting opens, the teacher speaks to his students.
"Of the four new persons experiencing this transformative operation, one will receive nothing, one will discern some of its meaning, another will comprehend more of its effects, and the fourth, if she actually experientially enters into the episode, will gain the ability to derive her own understanding of the operation, beyond mere knowledge of its details.
The teacher then turns to the three applicants. "Promise me one thing, and I will provide you everything you need."
The three applicants readily agree.
"You shall," continues the teacher, "promise never to ask me to do anything for you, then I'll provide you everything you need."
One of the applicants immediately exclaims, "I knew it, you're nothing but a fraud, just like my friends said you were!" He leaves immediately.
The second applicant says: "From your statement I understand, for the first time, that I am incapable of knowing what I need."
The third applicant replies: "Thank you, from what you have said I understand that you cannot do anything for me, only provide me prescribed experiences which will help me to achieve transformation along with my own efforts."
"Yes," the teacher agrees, "but the prescription is non-refillable."
After an extended moment of silence, one of the students, after being recognized by the teacher, asks: "Who is the fourth person of whom you spoke, and how will she have gained understanding beyond knowledge?"
"The fourth person," the teacher replies, "is you, the reader of this transformative operation. You will have gained understanding if you entered into the experience with the proper attitude and desire."
5 Religion is the accumulation of inert theological dogma and ritual; science is the current world view based on the conception of knowledge as materialistic, mechanistic, and empirical; magic is the assumed search for extra-normal phenomena through the exercise of heightened emotions