This article is from a Ram Dass lecture that took place in 1976. It can be argued that much of the “upleveling” of spiritual consciousness described here is still taking place in the West. Like many of Ram Dass’ words, this description of the spiritual state of the U.S. applies just as much to current beliefs as it did over thirty years ago.
There’s a tremendously delicate predicament with the scene in America now. Historically we have to go back to the opening of the sixties, the opening of consciousness that made many hundreds of thousands of people realize suddenly that there is something else. We were looking for new models then, and we bought them as fast as we could. We imported them as fast as we could, and the imports were somewhat second rate, most of them, because we didn’t know enough. We couldn’t discriminate yet. We couldn’t get the pure thing because we were going in too grossly to grab at whatever we could get.
As the years go by, the nature of the intermediaries who are bringing back the teachings is growing purer and purer. When the first people came back they brought a little bit of this and a little bit of that. Eclecticism was riding high, everybody taking a little of this and a little of that, at the wrong level in a way. Nobody was really getting the teachings out of it. They were getting a little teaching, and the beginnings of a realization that there are beings that have done this kind of thing. But they weren’t getting the full blast because there was nobody around to give it.
Slowly the demand for more purity of lineage and tradition has increased. In the past ten years in America we’ve seen a tremendous upleveling of the whole process. There is now a demand and a readiness in a sizeable population in the west to receive higher teachings. And that’s really what it’s about, because the higher teachings are attracted by the readiness of people to receive them. What we’ve seen in the past fifteen years in the U.S. is a profound growth in the spiritual community in America. I’m talking about the upper end of this continuum, of the people who are ready to receive higher teachings.
In a country like India those people are very few percentage wise, even though there are millions of sadhus. Many of them just have it as a way of life, a religious way of life, but it isn’t the highest teachings. Now this demand is bringing forth some of the higher teachers and higher forms of teachings in America.
It is also true that because of its affluence and its democracy and its decadence, this country is in a unique position, maybe just a fertile moment before suppression reigns. The whole thing could turn into a very militaristic situation in which there would be a tremendous suppression of all this stuff, because it is all in a way heretical to any political structure, and to nationalism at that level. But at this moment there is a very fertile field for very rapid spiritual growth in this country, in the Western hemisphere. And we are all taking advantage of it as fast as we can, so the teachings are appearing here where before they were not received or supported. There are very few young people in India who want to study this stuff. In India if you go to the scenes that are run by Tibetans or Indians, most of the young people are all westerners now. We are importing it back to the west, and we are just starting to get the higher teachers and teachings now.
The predicament is that westerners tend to look at the whole thing as if they were going shopping at the supermarket. You have to be aware of the subtleties to discriminate between methods and their values, and the ways they work on you, but at the beginning you just can’t hear. You just can’t differentiate the very gross teaching from the finer teaching. In fact, the grosser teachers usually attract people much more quickly because they are designed to do that. The higher teachers don’t want those students. I can feel in myself the way the whole change in my being is changing the quality of the people who come into my office. The quality of them is changing because my desire structure is changing. Before they were important or they were sexually attractive or they were rich or they were fascinating in some way. Now the only people I am interested in are those who really want to go to God. Far out, the whole game is changed!
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