The Perennial Philosophy
Established religions-- no hope. At times I identify myself as a Buddhist, yet the more I learn about Thai Buddhism, the less inclined I am to identify with it. The Buddhism of mainstream Thais smacks of superstition and kneeling to authority.... there's very little understanding of the direct teachings and almost no independent or critical thinking. There is very little direct practice, except in the monastaries. Most Thais are Buddhists because everyone else is, because their parents are, because that's just what you do.
And so I find that the actualization of Buddhism is dead among the mainstream,... just as Jesus' message of love and forgiveness is dead among mainstream Americans. It seems that the Perennial Philosophy inevitably dies when authorities and the masses embrace a teaching. As Joseph Campbell noted, "In thinking, the majority is always wrong". This is doubly so when it comes to religious thought. A mass religion ceases to be a vehicle of liberation.... becomes corrupted with power and co-opted by authority.... becomes a vehicle of obedience and oppression.
My Thai friends are obsessed with "making merit". By this they mean doing token good deeds in order to bribe Buddha-God into giving them more money, better luck, and a better re-birth (the Christian equivalent of a ticket to heaven). Goenka called this an attempt to "puff-up God with pride in order to get something from him". My friends go through the motions of rituals with seemingly no awareness of the deeper principles they represent. For example, they buy fish and birds from a shop and then take them to the river and release them. This act supposedly gives them "good karma". But by buying these creatures they support a mini-industry that captures these animals in the first place. And they have no problem eating a fish or chicken dinner after performing this ritual... the irony is completely lost on them because theirs is a religion of rote ritual and conformity.
Hakim Bey is right-- there is no hope in authority religions.
Only personal religions based in the Perennial Philosophy,
Only religions of ecstatic experience,
Only a congress of weird religions,
Only these hold any hope. Only these can avoid the corruption of power. Only these maintain an expansive quality.
Mainline religions are dead. While their original source teachings hold great wisdom-- its a wisdom that can only be discovered anew by each individual, through study, contemplation, and most of all -- through direct experience. Its a wisdom that's best discovered by mining the meaning from several religious teachings at once... by sorting out the perennial truths that run through them all. Reject all priests, all gurus, all orthodoxy, all churches, all temples, all leaders, all commandments, all holy books, all scripture, all fossilized rituals...
Return to shamanism
-- the personal religion of spiritual EXPERIENCE (this word can't be emphasized enough).... guided by, not dictated by, the teachings & teachers of the Perennial Philosophy in its many forms (Grassroots Zen, Native American Shamanism, Sufism, Goenka Vipassana, Beat-Bum Buddhism, Psychedelic Spirituality,....).
The only true religion is one you create yourself.