Kundalini Splendor

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Thursday, November 17, 2005

Why I Don't Trust Academics 

Recently, I had occasion to view the bibliography of a highly distinguished professor of philosophy in a leading university. She had attained star status in her field, had published studies on major philosophers with the most prestigious presses, had won numerous distinctions and awards.

As much as I admired her obvious brilliance and dedication, the list of achievements brought to mind certain deep feelings I carry about the contemporary academy and what I perceive as its skewed priorities. And so began this inner conversation (rant, maybe) on a topic which touches me deeply.

I, of course, was a "professor" for many years. Like many in my field (English and American literature) I chose my profession because--as one colleague put it--even as a child I loved stories. The mystery of meaning, the power of narrative to hold and enlighten, the spell of myth and symbol--these drew me in, and held me as a devoted disciple for many years.

However, though the students and I loved to explore texts for both technique and theme, something around us changed. I began to lose faith when I discovered that philosophers were unwilling to deal with the ancient questions such as What is Truth? Ethical choice? Beauty? They examined only those questions which had answers (such as what did so and so write about or think on this subject?) Theirs were, in my view, the easy choices, a refusal to confront the essential human questions in a meaningful way.

The scientists, of course, had long since abandoned the search for ultimates or even human connections, ignoring the spirit behind the appearing phenomena; they limited themselves strictly to the material universe. It had to be that which can be weighed, measured, or detected through instrumentation in order to be of interest or the subject of valid research. God or any semblance thereof was off limits in the laboratory.

And literary criticism, in a similar fashion, abandoned the search for meaning and chose instead to consider writing as mere "text," something to be examined in its own right with no regard for author, intent, or possible connection to human experience. "Deconstruction" became an industry, with its own arcane vocabulary, its own protocols, where suggestions of Mystery were not welcome.

To me, the new approach was like considering the Bach Mass in B Minor not as a glorious aesthetic/transcendent experience, but simply as a printed score, dissecting the notes and technical markings as meaningful in themselves.

In other words, the new academics and researchers lost touch with spirit, in effect murdered feeling. They armored themselves against the realm of the subjective, became domed against heaven.

What would happen, I wonder, if one of these "super intellects" were to be touched by kundalini, awakened to the mystery within? Would their psyches crumble, as their entire structure of beliefs (which is who they are) were to be demolished? I think there is little chance that such "rational beings" would ever be catapulted this way into god/goddess awareness. They are too well defended, too far into denial of all but what is, finally, a very narrow reality. Transcendence is not their goal.

Hence the high rate of alcoholics among their number, the many abusers of wives and children, the bitter egoists who use the arena of faculty politics to assuage their sense of inner loss.

Only those open to possibility will be seized by the divine. Only those who can say "Yes" will be taken into the Mystery.

(Note: I am neither anti-intellectual nor anti-academics as such. Many good and generous souls take refuge within the walls of the university, but often they are deeply wounded by their experience there.

Also, I should point out that I am not trying to put the traditional God (or some modernized version of such) into the classroom, as in religious fundamentalism. What I am calling for is a return to a more human and humane perspective, in which subject matter conveys more than mere facts, where invitations to speculate and ponder remain open, and where learning is in some way presented as relevant to the human adventure. Such schools as Matt Fox's University of Creation Spirituality or the California Institute of Integral Studies have managed to capture this spirit of learning in recent years.)

A further comment: I have for some time felt that if the university rejected its commitment to improving the human condition, to bringing light into the psyche, and enabling and ennobling students with models of truth and transcendence, this task would be taken over by other agents. And indeed, this is happening, as alternative universities spring up, as speakers, conferences, books, periodicals, internet sites and workshops offer the kind of exploration and experiential discovery I am describing. I like to think this blog is one such medium.

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