s we start reaching into the amorphous ocean of the collective consciousness, reaching for ways to heal ourselves and our society, where can we go to learn how to do this? Who are the experts, the voices we can trust, the ones who can guide us to unlock the truths within ourselves? Who are the ones who can help unlock the next doorways into this emerging field?
It seems that the pathways are very personalized, and there are any number of weekend workshops, retreats, and trainings one can go to. And when that’s not enough, there’s living in an ashram, a monastery, or finding the cause that you love more than anything, and defending your beloved with all you’ve got. For those ready for an investment of time and energy, and want to come out with credentials, there are masters programs now for spiritual activists.
Even Russel Brand has gone back to school. After going headlong into the political fray and getting beaten up in the process, Rusell decided to go get more intellectual fire power, and has enrolled in a program at the University of London exploring the intersection of Religion and Politics.
It’s a curious sign of the collective evolution underway, to see how academia is desiging these curriculums. Some develop programs ready-made from existing departments — psychology and counseling programs and divinity schools. And some are new inventions altogether. Some of the masters programs most focused on spiritual activism I’ve seen are:
- John F Kennedy University: Master of Arts in Consciousness and Transformative Studies (SF Bay Area, online and in person )
- California Institute for Integral Studies: Philosophy, Cosmology, and Consciousness (SF Bay Area, online and in person)
- Schumacher College: Sacred Activism (UK)
- Columbia University: Spirituality Mind Body Institute (NYC, in person)
I recently met a cohort of students from the Columbia University program studying a track on spiritual healing with Ron Young. That such a thing exists in the left-brain academy, is pretty extraordinary. Each week this particular cohort meets on the Upper West Side of Manhattan to practice the spiritual healing techniques they are learning. They invite volunteer clients in need of healing on a physical, emotional, or spiritual level.
There is nothing quite like this anywhere. So how do you earn real credentials as a spiritual healer. Ron Young himself is an example of a person whose only option was to follow a self-guided curriculum. It began with studying under the wing of Hilda Charleton.
Hilda was a teacher in the Vedic tradition, who went to India, and when she came back, offered weekly teachings out of the Cathedral of St. John the Divine from 1977-1987. She understood and trusted in the Vedic ways, uninfected by capitalism, where the sanyassi dedicates all of their life energy to the upliftment of humanity; they are supported for their material needs in kind. There is a knowing that the teachings themselves are priceless, so with Hilda there was no such thing as workshop fees. She made herself available to students 24 hours a day, some of them sleeping on the floor of her apartment, including Ron Young when he was in his 20s.
“Hilda was obligated to no one except God, and she served everyone as God. She taught, counseled, and healed thousands, made herself available for lengths of time and at depths of intensity beyond what seemed humanly possible, and accepted no money or fame for all that she gave.”
This is how an American spirituality is coming into being. It is made up of individuals who go out into places that feel foreign, and adapt it in ways that feel natural for them. And then they can spread it to others. It needs to be re-interpreted each time, into forms that are relevant for our culture, until one day it feels native to us. It is a sure sign of nativism when larger institutions are starting to reflect the adaptations.
The reading list for Ron Young’s course in spiritual healing is emblematic of his pilgrimage and journey. It shows the progression after sleeping on Hilda’s floor, of where he was guided, each tug at the heart, bringing him to the next teacher that would be necessary for his unfoldment. His part in writing the new language of American spirituality.
Sometimes the path you have taken only makes sense, when you look down the mountain and see that the circuitous route of the last decades is what brought you to the place you are today. And sometimes, for the final stretch, there is no institution, you see no guide, because you yourself have become the guide.