The Modern Mystical Movement II

The Modern Mystical Movement

Dr. Hank Wesselman
Image Credit: Daniel Bates

Hank Wesselman

It is no news to anyone in the Western World that increasing numbers of people are leaving our mainstream religions in droves.  What is news is that this is not an atheistic movement.  Quite the contrary. A wide-spread spiritual reawakening is taking place–one that is cutting across socioeconomic levels of achievement and status, one that is transcending cultural, political, and ethnic boundaries as well.

This social movement is intensely democratic and appears to be made up of people who hold a set of beliefs and values that differ from those of the general public.  This new belief complex is quietly, yet definitively, gaining acceptance among increasing numbers of well-informed and well-connected individuals, many of whom are in professional and social positions from which they can influence the larger society’s ideas and trends.

The number of people involved is not known with certainty, but 14 years of social research in the United States by demographer Paul Ray, PhD., has shown that more than 50 million Americans may fall into this category, representing more than 25% of the adult population.  This is not a small number, and it appears to be growing.  Ray’s analysis suggests that we Westerners have arrived at a point in our history in which our prevailing mythologies are not working so well any more.  The 50 million among us know, without being told, that it is time to create a ‘new story’, a new cultural myth, in which we synthesize a whole new set of ways of seeing ourselves and our society, as well as our place in the greater scheme of things.

Ray’s survey has revealed that the citizens involved are socially-concerned, environmentally-aware, and spiritually-focused creative people, who are carriers of more positive ideas and values than in any previous period of history.  The ever-increasing numbers of these ‘cultural-creatives’ know with absolute certainty that if we continue to do business as usual, Western Civilization may well collapse, taking the rest of the world with it.  This awareness is producing a growing sense of urgency, an existential angst, accompanied by an insistence on social, political, and economic reform that will benefit everyone, not just the powerful and the privileged. (see: Paul Ray and Sherry Anderson’s website:

Anthropologists might call this a new kind of cultural revitalization movement and observe that such a shift in the dominant cultural pattern of a society happens only once or twice in a thousand years.  This one is occurring during a period of ever-accelerating social change, enabled by a high technology and a world-wide communication system unlike any ever seen before.  This suggests that the shift has already spread far beyond the boundaries of the Western World, and may, in fact, be happening on a planetary scale.

Are you a member of this movement?  My book, VISIONSEEKER, presents a profile of this growing community of worthies, as well as a partial list of their core beliefs and values:  Here it is with a footnote or two…


1. The belief that everything and everyone is part of a pattern and thus interconnected.

–His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, has put it this way: ‘Nowadays, whatever happens in one part
of the world will eventually effect people and places far away. Therefore, it is essential to treat
each major problem (and social movement), right from their inception, as a global concern. It is
no longer possible to emphasize, without destructive repercussions, the national, racial, ideological,
(or spiritual) barriers which differentiate us. Within the context of our new interdependence,
self-interest clearly lies in considering the interests of others.’
                                          (from The Way Ahead, eds. Eddie and Debbie Shapiro, Element Books, 1992)

2. The belief in the existence of an alternate reality, often referred to as the “other world,” the “spirit world,” the “dreamtime,” or simply, “the sacred” by the traditional peoples.  Modern mystics often refer to it as “non-ordinary reality.”

–This is a core concept shared by many quantum physicists and zen buddhists as well. I n our
workshops, we do ‘fieldwork’ in these inner worlds, investigating the nature of the “non-ordinary
dimensions of reality.”

3. The belief in the ability of some individuals to achieve transcendent states of consciousness in which it becomes possible to enter into this alternate reality for problem-solving and the healing of self and others.  This belief is usually accompanied by a strong desire to personally experience the alternate reality.

–Today, there is increasing interest among Westerners in learning how to systematically alter
consciousness so that we too can personally connect with this other world, and many in the
modern mystical movement have learned and practice the ancient, time-tested technology of
transcendence, pioneered by the shamans of the traditional peoples.

4. The belief in the existence of spirit helpers and spirit teachers who reside in the alternate reality.

–These spirits are seen as critical in dealing with the alternate reality because they provide
the spiritual seeker with power, protection, and support, as well as knowledge and guidance.

5. The belief that everything, both living and inanimate, is imbued with its own personal supernatural essence or soul.  This includes the certainty that everything everywhere is aware and thus “minded” to some degree.

–This belief is universal among traditional peoples and is known as animism.

6. The belief in the existence of an impersonal supernatural power or vital force that is highly dispersed throughout the Universe, but which can be highly concentrated in certain places, objects, and living beings as life-force.

–This belief is called animatism, and almost everyone everywhere has a sense of this enlivening
energy, as well as how it can be accumulated, focused, and used.  This is the mana of the Polynesians
and Melanesians, the chi of the Chinese, the ki of the Japanese and Koreans, the prana of yoga,
the baraka of the Muslims, the num of the Kalahari bushmen, the manitou of the Algonkian
Indians, and the force of Obi Wan Kenobi.

7. The belief in a personal energy body around and within which the physical body is formed. This energetic aspect can be perceived by those with psychic awareness as an aura, and modern mystics know that it can be enhanced through centers located within it–the chakras and meridians in Eastern thought.

–The medical intuitive Carolyn Myss has called the growing awareness of this energetic aspect
of the self to be one of the signatures of the “consciousness age.”  Western scientists, tempered by
their habitual caution, still know little about it.  The energy body is very sensitive to thoughts and
emotions, and the understanding of this delicate relationship is critical for healing.


8. Modern mystics hold a strong concern for social justice and the quality of life at all levels of society, both nationally and internationally.

9. Social tolerance, individualism, and spiritual freedom are highly valued ideals.

10. Strong support is felt for women’s issues as well as the safety and well-being of children and the elderly.  The rebuilding of families, neighborhoods, and communities are seen as major areas of concern, and human relationships are perceived to be of more importance than material gain.

–The interrelated values listed above form a strong complex, one that reveals that a new sense
of the sacred has come into the world–one that combines personal growth psychology and the
spiritual plus being of service, all mixed into one orientation.

11. Spiritual, mental-emotional, and physical balance and harmony are seen as critical to the well-being of the individual, the family, the society, the business firm, the nation-state, and the planetary community as a whole.  Accordingly, it is understood that humans must live their lives in ways that contribute to this balance, rather than following lifestyles or pursuing goals that create its opposite.

–Modern mystics are reconsidering the wisdom of the traditional peoples which is fundamentally
based on a sense of propriety, on an active respect for the land and for the natural powers that
permeate it.  The land, and everything associated with it, are holy.  This leads to a strong ecological

12. Modern mystics are environmentally savvy.  The survival of the environment and by association, the human species, is number one on their list.  They carry a deep respect for Nature and are seriously concerned with stopping corporate polluters, reversing greenhouse warming, and discovering the limits to short-term growth so that the world community can achieve the long-term ecological sustainability upon which the future of humanity depends.

–Today, with the environment under siege from a hundred fronts, the indigenous peoples’ views
on living in balance and harmony with nature and with its spiritual aspect (the mind behind
Nature), are beginning to look a whole lot less like superstition and a whole lot more like wisdom.

13. Accordingly, the value of simple, natural living is seen as a high ideal.

–Homage to the indigenous peoples, and to the bohemians, the beats, the hippies, and all
like-minded worthies before them, as well as those who will follow us for seven generations to
come.  Homage also to the medicine makers of all societies of all times.  In their capable hands
rests the physical, as well as the metaphysical equilibrium of our collective peoples.

14. Modern mystics tend to hold strong feelings of disaffection for Western allopathic medicine.  These concerns are being greatly enhanced by the increasingly negative effects on the quality of healthcare being introduced by the business-oriented and profit-motivated Health Maintenance Organizations (HMOs).

–Often, individuals who are terminally ill are kept alive by a Western medical system that is
trying to do the right thing, but in the process, the physical suffering of the dying is needlessly
prolonged, and the escalating costs of medical treatment can destroy a family’s resources.
This is simply not right.

15. While all are very much aware of Western Medicine’s often miraculous achievements, most of us have strong interests in alternative and preventative healthcare modalities (holistic, shamanic, transpersonal, herbalist, acupuncture, ayurvedic, and meditative, to name only a few).  These therapies are seen as ‘adjuncts to’ rather than as ‘replacements for’ Western Medicine.

–They are gaining in popularity because they work.

16. No one today can deny that the world’s social, political, economic, and religious problems are reaching critical mass.  Modern mystics believe that the ultimate solutions to all our problems will be achieved through the current spiritual reawakening as it progresses from the personal to the global.  They know that it has the potential to propel humanity into the next phase of its evolution as a more aware life form with more expanded abilities (see Visionseeker chapter 13).

–Modern mystics share a strong sense of hope and faith that as people move into and
rediscover their connection with the spiritual worlds, a change will occur within us–one
that will spread far beyond ourselves and will make the world a better, safer place to live
–one that will enable peace to break out and become the dominant reality paradigm
…………………………………………………………………………………..(see Visionseeker chapter 17).

17. Finally, virtually all who hold these beliefs and values are seekers of the direct, transformative experience of transcendence, and it is really this that defines us as mystics (see Visionseeker, chapter 1).

–The exploration of the nature of reality, as well as the mystery of who we are and what
we are doing here, is the substrate of the quest.  At its inception, this quest is intensely personal.
Yet as it progresses, it leads us inevitably toward a universal and ultimately altruistic
perspective, one that takes us straight into the irreversible vortex of spiritual expansion.
This progression, once begun, changes us profoundly and forever because it conveys to each
of us the experience of authentic initiation. 

In summation, modern mystics are engaged in intensive, personal quests for spirituality, meaning, and transcendence.  Although most tend not to be affiliated with organized religions, most profess beliefs in some form of supernatural god-like being or consciousness, and Jesus of Nazareth is regarded as a spirit teacher of great power, whether or not the spiritual seeker is psychologically Christian.

The members of this growing social movement are searching for ways to organize their lives in a personally more satisfying manner.  Paul Ray’s study suggests that we should take hope, for we are traveling in the company of an enormous number of allies who are everywhere, in every community, and at every level of society, revealing that this steadily-escalating social phenomenon has all the appearances of a spiritual revolution.

Let the media, the politicians, the multinational corporations, and the social analysts take heed.  The sheer number of people involved suggests that the modern mystical movement, of which the so-called New Age is a part, is not a fad.  Rather, a true Transformational Community is emerging, one whose beliefs, values and trends are already in the process of shifting the cultural norms of Western Society.

The majority believe that the individuals involved in this movement are the “seed people” who may determine the shape of the world’s spiritual orientation and practice for much of the next 2000 years.  If true, the history of the planet will be profoundly and inescapably changed by the spiritual resurgence going on in the Western world.  The results will be felt at every level of society, in every country, and will, by association, determine much of the politics and individual lifeways of the 21st Century.

Copyright Hank Wesselman, 2002.


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