THE THRESHOLD STANCE
To steal a metaphor from C. S. Lewis, religion is a room bigger on the inside than on the outside. Most generally, this study intends to render how the people inside this religion understand and act within their "world."1 In Redfield's (1952) terms, I seek to describe their "worldview;" how they experience the inner vastness of the room. But I seek to communicate this insider worldview to the outsider, to those disinclined to cross the threshold and lose sight of how the room looked on the outside.
The study takes a stand, therefore, at that threshold. It avoids the exclusively "etic" or scientific conception taken by those social scientists who have already written about the DLM and virtually ignored that which fascinates the insider. Yet it avoids as well an exclusively "emic"2 or insider conception which cloaks the DLM world in a veil of secrecy, esotericism, and propaganda, the sort of view- point Pilarzyk and Bharadwaj (1979) concluded could never be penetrated by phenomenological analysis.
The staunch insider and the staunch outsider both view a true threshold stance as impossible; to them, one who claims it is merely trying to disguise his allegiance to the alien side. For each has taken a stand for or against religious experience, identifying with
only one side of the intuition/reason dichotomy redefined again and again over the years as "primitive" or "modern" thought (Levy-Bruhl, 1925); "being-cognition" or "deficiency-cognition" (Maslow, 1968); "stoned mind" or "straight mind" (Weil, 1972); and "right-brain" or "left-brain" mentation (Ornstein, 1972).3 To each side, the other's mode of thought is at best immature, exemplifying a lower evolutionary or developmental stage and at worst demonic, identified now and again with Hitler - the anti-reasonists stressing his regimented, machinelike efficiency and conformity and the pro-reasonists his murky occult fantasies.
Scientific Criticisms of the Threshold Stance
Scientific critics standing outside of religion seek reasons for the impossibility of the threshold stance. Robbins, Anthony and Curtis, for example, suggest that under certain conditions one can stand at the threshold:
Operating simultaneously in a given set of "multiple realities" is feasible only if the various realities or meaning systmes do not overtly contradict each other.
But when one can't the religion - in this case that of "Jesus Freaks" - is to blame for its closed-mindedness:
One cannot be both a devotee and a sociologist of religion if one's religion definitely condemns a sociological analysis of religion as irreligious. One cannot be a symbolic realist if the esoteric meanings whose "reality" one is affirming deny the reality of symbolic realism. (1973, p. 279)
Some who repudiate the threshold stance tend to separate sociological and religious camps completely. In Reviewing Damrell's Seeking Spiritual Meaning (1977), a loosely phenomenological account of the author's dabblings in Vedanta, Danzer (1978) labels the author as
as a non-scientific religionist:
This book then is not a sociological analysis, nor a standard ethnographic work. … It is written from the perspective of one who has found religion. The author is articulate and informed and provides us with a useful document by a believer. And perhaps that is what he intended. (1978)
It makes no difference to the reviewer that Damrell has remained an established professional sociologist; he has "gone native" and therefore his version of science is no longer valid. Pilarzik and Bharadwaj (1979), who researched the DLM, likewise suggest that the threshold stance is impossible:
The phenomenological researcher who undergoes the conversion process of rejecting one paradigm and accepting a drastically different one (incommensurable with his/her own) cannot existentially stand with one foot in each worldview and in a non-reductionist manner, understand both of them. (1979, p. 27)
They defend this view on the grounds that conversion might undermine one's scientific commitment. According to them, an existential (rather than the researcher's phenomenological)surrender to the esoteric world- view might well "necessitate the abandonment of social scientific purposes and principles as well as the 'need' to report 'findings' to the sociological community." (1979, p. 30)
Castaneda may have proved them right but others have returned to report their findings to the scientific community. Seeing social science not as an unchallengeable and unique reality, but as a malleable construct, they tend to innovate it in several ways.
First, the returned insider innovates social science by correcting the outsiders' previous impressions of his "world " and its inhabitants:
From the outside, deviant persons, like members of racial minorities, tend to look alike. From the inside, there is bound to be assortment and variety, observable, known, and usually designated by those who inhabit that world. (Matza, 1969, p. 28)
The returnee from a religious world attacks the stereotype of the "irrational" religionist by displaying the ability to observe, discriminate, analyze, and reason, as another evaluator of Damrell points out:
By having become the phenomenon, Dr. Damrell has demonstrated that authentic experience needs no protection from analytic understanding. Like an instant replay in a football game, he "slows the spiritual machinery" so that we can see its constitutive processes. The description of it strikes a blow against mystification by making things plain. (Berger, 1977, p. 13)
Second, these innovators look at social phenomena scientifically, but from a new angle: Nels Anderson (1923), of the Chicago naturalist school, saw from the point of view of the hobo he had once been; and Howard Becker (1963, p. 59 ff) examined the way the marijuana user views the controlling society's judgement of him.
Third, the returned insider expands his field substantively. He scientifically analyzes phenomena previously thought to be nonexistent, silly, impossibly elusive, irrelevant, even dangerous to study. Anthropologist and self-proclaimed mystic Agehananda Bharati, A German who had wandered for years as a Hindu sadhu, proposes the social scientific scrutiny of mysticism:
Ego involvement in a discipline does not cancel the duty to analyze and criticize that discipline, nor does it jeopardize the skill of analysis during periods of discursive detachment. There is no reason why a composer should not also be a musicologist… From the fact that very few mystics have been anthropologists studying mysticism critically, it does not follow that they cannot or should not be - and vice versa. (1976, p. 18)
Thus we find that Hood (1975) has invented a "Mysticism Scale," Greeley has surveyed populations to find the incidence of mystical and paranormal experiences (1975), and numerous psychologists have undertaken the study and measurement of brainwaves and other physiological phenomena (Pelletier, 1978, ch, 5). Tart (1980) even wants to invade altered
states of consciousness with scientific intention to create "state-specific science," in which the observor would somehow distrust the "obvious perception of truth" typical of some altered states, and resist the "immense emotional power of mystical experiences" for the sake of observation and hypothesis-testing. (1980, pp. 208, 210)
The returned insider innovates scientific method as well. He acknowledges part of his "method" to be serendipity and accidents of fate, quirks of biography and personality, the inevitable overlap of social science and private life which, it seems, insinuates into the work of all social scientists but surfaces rarely, generally only in reflexive accounts. While studying the Apostles of John Maranke in Central Africa, Jules-Rosette, for example, decided to undergo baptism, where she unexpectly "saw" a huge copper star "flash three times like a neon sign" (1975, p. 80). From that time on, she found herself "discovering a potential point of access to [a very different] awareness," so that "once the specific intent of certain rituals became known to me, the possibility of attaining multiple forms of awareness and flowing easily fromone to another emerged." (1975, p. 63) Had she not had these experiences she could not have entered into the Apostles' symbolic and visionary world, the Apostles would not even have let her attend their rituals. But her conversion brought on the possibility sensed by Pilarzik and Bharadwaj that religious experience would undermine her scientific aims:
[I wondered] whether membership would simply serve as a tool for me as a researcher, or whether I would reach a point of abandon where the experience for its own sake would become more important than reflection on it. (1975, p. 72)
It turned out that her return to academia, like her conversion to the Apostles, happened unpredictably, not according to preplanned "method"
but as part of the unexpected turns of her life as she lived it.35
Like art, social science has a tradition of demanding, if not serendipity, at least certain penchants in its practitioners. Durkheim, for example, recommends religiousness to the student of religious phenomena:
Whoever does not bring to the study of religion a sort of religious sentiment has no right to speak about it! He would be like a blind man talking about colors.4
Kurt Wolff recommends "surrender" to one's object of study, or "cognitive love," a "total experience." Like phenomenological bracketing, Wolff's "surrender" involves "suspension of received notions," and "pertinence of everything," (1978, 237-9), but it calls not just for an intellectual act but for a movement of the whole person, learned through one's own life, which yields not just a technique for obtaining data, but a vehicle for genuine human relations as well. This sort of "love," according to Maslow, actually enhances objectivity:
My finding is that, that which you love, you are prepared to leave alone. … We do not wish it to be other than it is. … Which is all to say that we can see it more truly as it is in its own nature rather than as we would like it to be or fear it to be or hope it will be. Approving of its existence, approving of the way it is, as it is, permits us to be nonintrusive, nonmanipulating, nonabstracting, noninterfering perceivers. (1971, pp. 16-18) 5
Finally, we find that Bellah's position of "symbolic realism" demands first the conviction - and this is undoubtedly a biographical, existential one - that religion is a "reality sui generis," nonreducible to anything else, and second, a certain "empathy," which "requires that one subjectively have a sense of what it would be like to believe that one, and only one, view of the world is true:"(1974, p. 487)
It may be a counsel of perfection, but I think the ideal field worker should have the capacity to entertain the possibility that
even the wild-eyed young man living with thirty others in the fields who believes the apocalypse is almost on us might indeed be right. That the field worker has to actually share that belief to understand it seems to be clearly mistaken. (Bellah, 1974, p. 488)
"Method" thus conceived blends fixed, willed intention with circumstance and personal tendency, creating a link to the "method" of he who approaches the threshold between social science and religion from the inside.
Insider criticisms of the Threshold Stance
The staunch religious "insider" is also opposed to a threshold stance. For to him the esoteric experience compels belief; alternate interpretations of the experience limit its claims and undermine the belief structure. Even benign pluralistic interpretation of esoteric experience can lead to several kinds of confusion. First, it can unwittingly support heretical tendencies within the insiders' camp. Second, it can lead to imitation, which can destroy the religionists' claim of special uniqueness. Third, pluralistic interpretation reduces, distorts, and misinterprets the insiders' experiences to both potential converts and persecutors, sidetracking the former and adding fuel to the fires of the latter.
As sociologists vary in their acceptance of the threshold stance, so do religionists. Insiders' tolerance for ambiguity varies even at the center, as I saw for myself in the DLM, while life at the periphery, rubbing elbows with outsiders, demands it. Some insiders, comparmentalizing their lives, have "the sense of living in two worlds." (Divine Times, 4/75, p. 15) Others are able to deal on two levels of reality at once, as Rennie Davis had to do when planning housing for the "Millennium '73" festival in Houston and having to deal with GMJ's
brother's insistence that up to 400,000 people would come. He bowed down to the brother but "would then quietly reserve hotel rooms for only 22,000:"
"From my tours to promote this festival and my previous experience organizing this sort of event, I know 22,000 is all we can count on. …If others come," Rennie continued almost whimsically, "it will be the grace of God, so then the grace of God can house them, too." (Collier, 1978, p. 159)
Still others syncretise, not only justifying a continuing love for Jesus with the notion that GMJ teaches what Jesus taught, but justifying an interest in scientific scrutiny of their religious practices by insisting that GMJ is, after all, the "master scientist." Science can even help further insiders' religious aims: "Transcendental meditation" is advertised with charts and graphs which purport to prove its physiological benefits; and for years parapsychologists have undertaken painstaking experiments to prove the scientific validity of extrasensory perception.
The apostate who adopts the threshold stance poses a special threat to insiders. Pluralistic interpretation renders him untrustworthy and unpredictable. Out of new-found ignorance of what is important he may reveal special secrets; out of indifference he may find himself or his report manipulated by the group's enemies; and finally, out of his own bouts with hostility he may himself inadvertently muckrake, attack, distort, betray the inside group. His newly-found freedom of opinion renders him "crazy" and dangerous in terms of insider reality. Such fears are not always unfounded; apostates from many New Religious Movements have gone to work for deprogrammers, and two former high officials of the DLM announced to the press after the Jonestown mass suicide/massacre that GMJ was just like Jim Jones and
DLM would surely be next. Ms Dupertuis appears to be mistaken or relying on DLM gossip, they made no such claim
The apostate who attempts the threshold stance faces special problems. With his religious perception, interpretation, feeling, even identity and biography so drastically changed how can he remain balanced at the threshold, speaking undistortedly to outsiders about the insider's view of reality? If he loses the ability to enter the religious mode of perception he thinks the insiders are lying or grossly fooling themselves; if he keeps the mode of perception but alters the interpretation, as I have, he has lost the original, full multidimensionality and cannot help but distort or reduce to some extent in his attempt at reconstruction. If he relies on memory, he has to realize he has rewritten his biography, as all converts do. What was once "the 'thing that saved my life," or "heaven on earth" becomes "a learning experience," or "youthful folly." Deconversion demotes him from chosen initiate to frequenter of the occult fringe, from one who dedicated his life to one who has perhaps wasted it. Then there is ambivalence; nostalgia alternates with bitterness. How does the apostate who is basically disinclined to muckrake prevent explosive attacks of anger from flaring up in print; how does one's perception of the ex-guru as stupid, greedy, exploitative, or power-mad ever soften; how does one honestly hide, as do other students of deviant behavior, certain seamy backroom doings?
To rely not so much on one's own experience but on the testimony of those still inside offers one solution to these dilemmas, but then again which insiders, which topics, which quotations? Between adoration and disdain, where is objectivity, and how does one ask old friends about something that seems to one's new viewpoint no longer to exist?
This study uses three means to resolve the dilemmas of the apostate taking a threshold stance. First is simply to take the mundane advice given to all participant observors, to explore and explain one's biases as honestly as possible. Second, I have chosen a topic which does not demand certain sorts of value judgements; I need not try to determine whether DLM is good or bad for followers or for society, whether it is real or bogus religion, whether people are "brainwashed" or "liberated," whether they grow or regress, or the extent to which the organization is or is not authoritarian, exploitative, dishonest, greedy, badly run, or even dangerous. Third, my theoretical assumptions are spelled out in detail, in the remainder of this chapter.
ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT WORLDVIEW
My topic involves the part that alternative states of consciousness play in worldview and the clash between worldviews, the way politically powerless worldviews are maintained, the interpersonal dynamics which both generate and protect the alternative states on which religious worldviews are based. My task is to reconstruct that worldview, relying on my experience with it to ask the relevant questions. But first "worldview" must be defined.
A "worldview" is simply a people's view of the world. The parts of someone's "worldview" the researcher chooses to describe depends on his unwritten assumptions about social worlds or social realities. Saliba's article on the DLM worldview, for example, "concentrates on … the place of the guru in the thought and affection of the devotees." (1980, p. 71) He finds that "Any outsider is bound to conclude that GMJ is actually worshipped in the same sense in which Christians
worship God or Christ." (1980, p. 77-8) In a sense his perception, based on gleanings from DLM publications, is correct. But it is very one-dimensional and emphasizes "thought" over "affection," attitude over intuitive, symbolic, or bodily comprehensions of the Guru. Presented as dogma, this finding is static with no allowance for change, and monolithic with no allowance for individual variation. It does not admit that a follower's view of GMJ can be mediated by DLM social experience, and slights the fact that GMJ is a person with whom followers interact. One might argue that a researcher must at least start with this, but one might argue as well that to start with this imposes qualities on the DLM woridview that do not exist when seen from another angle.
Foss and Larkin, approaching much the same task, found in contrast to Saliba that "Guru Maharaj Ji was deified as the mirror of an incomprehensible, meaningless universe." (1978, p. 157) Here the Guru is a vivid, acting person: "GMJ is aware of his preposterous image and skillfully manipulates it." (160) He emerges as a personification of the absurd because he is viewed through the lens of change, contradicting himself, reacting unpredictably to Mission crises which themselves emerge from the complex interaction of the end of the Vietnam war, the demise of the 60's counterculture, the downturn of the U. S. economy. This worldview was not conceived in a vacuum. Yet it completely denies cognitive, affective, or intuitive dimensions of the DLM world- view, which Saliba at least tried to include.
In contrast to both these studies in DLM woridview, Pilarzyk and Bharadwaj who, like Saliba, isolate their subjects from history and change, stress the mystical, transcendental, inscrutable nature of the followers' experiential world: "An enhanced spiritual life was not obtained through the cognitive abilities of the potential convert but
through a 'surrender experience' of the total person."(1979, p. 21) They utterly overlook the dogma on which Saliba concentrates and any sense of the Guru or followers as active participants in social life, and conclude that this particular worldview is sociologically impenetrable. In other words, they mystify it completely.
* * * * *
These examples show that, whether stated or not, assumptions about worldview help shape what one sees in another's worldview. The assumptions I use in this study emerge in part from Berger and Luckman's (1967) notion of "socially constructed reality."
Berger and Luckman's thesis revolves around a dialectic of "externalization," "objectification," and "internalization," summarized by the statements, "Society is a human product. Society is an objective reality. Man is a social product." (1967, p. 61) They tend to emphasize "objectification" of society (through institutionalization) and "internalization" of social reality (through primary socialization), perhaps because they write mainly about broad, macro social realities, taking a stable "culture" or "society" as their unit of analysis. But a culture whose reality does not seem such an established fact - small, deviant movements like the DLM - calls for more emphasis on "externalization," or the ongoing human construction of "reality." For the "reality" of such a group is still being created and must constantly be differentiated from the larger social reality, which confronts it at every turn, ultimately provides its members' physical support, and lurks within each person's memory as the "massively and indubitably real" world of childhood. (1967, p. 136)
My approach to the dialectic of the social construction of reality, then, will emphasize "externalization," or the process of its human creation. The assumptions from Berger and Luckman's theory have, in addition, been modified to fit the special case of a small, deviant religious movement. These assumptions are that a people's perceived "reality" is a) humanly constructed, b) ongoingly constructed, c) dynamic, d) multi-leveled, e) socially constructed and shared, f) variable from person to person, and g) varyingly opaque.
a) Humanly Constructed. Berger and Luckman emphasize continually that social order is an "ongoing human production," (1967, p. 51) and that "symbolic universes," or vast, cosmic meaning-systems are humanly produced (p. 97) - and, of course human language, institutions, all the elements of "society." They stress this seemingly self-evident point in order to ponder the fact that for most people some elements of their humanly-produced world come to assume the same fixed, objective reality as the natural world. One could take Berger and Luckman's insistence on the human construction of reality as the basis for a dualistic assumption which implies that on the one hand socially constructed reality is always somehow fake - a "reification," or a "false consciousness" - to be unmasked or reduced by sociological analysis, and that on the other hand somehow a real reality, a fixed absolute, pure Truth, exists immutably above and beyond it. The people in question, then, are invariably "wrong" or misguided in their perception of reality.
Insistence on the human construction of "reality," however, need imply neither judgement nor a dualistic stance. Symbols, after all, are human constructions in that they originate in the human psyche, yet they embody transhistorical meaning; they tap into it and make it accessible
to human understanding. As a link between the human and the trans- human, a symbol cannot be meaningfully unraveled into its constituent parts; its unmasking destroys the interdependent revelation of the human and of the absolute realms which leaves both intact. The destruction of another's symbols, then, is in itself a humanly constructed reality, with no more claim than any other to "objectivity," or "rightness" or "wrongness." And the projection of a pristine "truth" untainted by human imagination is itself a symbol.
The very use of the term "construction" in the notion of "the social construction of reality" may also limit understanding of the process. For "construction" implies building, adding on, creating something ex nihilo; but many social realities are involved as much in "destruction" as "construction." Modern science, for example, destroys the apparent reality of nature's appearances, just as religious "Christian Science" tries to feel the unreality of disease at such a basic physical level that in fact it disappears. Sociology's attempt to point out the unreality of human meaning-systems parallels the Hindu's penetration of "illusion" and the Buddhist's attempt to cut through the web of language. As Berger and Luckman themselves suggest, a minority's counter-definitions of reality often involve the destruction of prevailing social understandings. (1967, p. 166 ff)
b) Ongoingly constructed. Berger and Luckman stress that the dialectic of human reality construction, objectification, and internalization is an ongoing process, maintained not only on the macro level through the self-perpetuating nature of social institutions, but on the micro level through ongoing conversation. (1967, p. 152)6 Human input does not withdraw after some initial mythical construction, but continually maintains social reality which, Berger and Luckman imply, would
collapse without such concerted ongoing "reality-maintenance." Stress on the role of conversation allows one to conceive of the active, ongoing participation of everyone in the project of reality-construction and maintenance.
This study deals with the ongoing maintenance of the DLM "reality" largely through conversation, but the "reality" thus maintained is an esoteric, transcendent one based on perceptions derived from a meditative state. Conversation becomes in fact a consicous tool, carefully refined to promote a sense of the esoteric reality's validity. It includes specific gestures and attitudes as well as words.
c) Dynamic. Social reality conceived as an ongoing human project becomes dynamic, undergoing constant change. A snapshot-like list of "customs" or "beliefs and practices" reflects only one moment of a people's history and binds them to a static image which, if widely publicized, they must subsequently deal with. A dynamic conception is especially important with unstable marginal movements like the DLM which, as the above chapter and Pilarzyk(1978) and Price(1979) show, change drastically over a few years or even months, their beliefs and worldviews as well as social structure varying according to circumstance.
d) Multi-leveled. According to Berger and Luckman,
The theoretical formulations of reality, whether they be scientific or philosophical or even mythological, do not exhaust what is "real" for the members of a society. Since this is so, the sociology of knowledge must first of all concern itself with what people "know" as "reality" in their everyday, non- or pre-theoretical lives. In other words, commonsense "knowledge" rather than "ideas" must be the central focus for the sociology of knowledge. It is precisely this "knowledge" that constitutes the fabric of meanings without which no society could exist. (1967, p. 15)
This concern corrects the tendency of the sociology of knowledge to concentrate on intellectual formulations and of theology on formal dogma;
it points to what Schutz called the taken-for-granted "world of daily life," a "what everybody knows" general knowledge of things. But this focus is still too narrow when applied to a religious culture because the authors insist on the "paramouncy" of this "world of daily life," which Schutz has defined as the "world of work," of adulthood, wide-awakeness, "standard time" and "standard space." They demote to secondary importance other realities, or "finite provinces of meaning" such as dreams, aesthetic and religious experience:
Compared to the reality of everyday life, other realities appear as finite provinces of meaning, enclaves within the paramount reality marked by circumscribed meanings and modes of experience. The paramount reality envelops them on all sides, as it were, and consciousness always returns to the paramount reality as from an excursion. (1967, p. 25)
In many forms of religious understanding, "What everybody knows" includes the religious "province of meaning." Religious consciousness envelops the "world of daily life" on all sides; it is the paramount reality, to which one again and again returns. Mystical or trance states seem to be more vivd, more wide-awake than mundane consciousness, and the eternity and infinity they reveal impress the sensibilities as far more "real" and stable than the day-in-day-out time which seems now to lag, now to pass in a flash, and space which seems now to confine, now to overwhelm, and to fade when eternity and infinity are once again perceived. The fear of death disappears, and with it the "fundamental anxiety" which according to Schutz underlies the "world of daily life."
In a later article Berger does explore the possiblity of a paramount reality arising from religious consciousness:
In the context of religious experience, the reality of everyday life is dramatically deprived of its "paramount? status. Instead, it now appears as the antechamber, the "outer court," of another
reality, one of drastic otherness and nevertheless of immense significance for man. In the course of this shift in the apperception of reality, all mundane acitivty in everyday life is radically relativized, trivialized. … Despite this relativization, the individual must continue to act in everyday life, and to this end must somehow continue to behave "as if" its reality still had its hold…
This paradox of being in two realities more or less simultaneously is the fundamental problem of the religious life. … And even when the other reality is not "at hand" to consciousness, it is copresent with the reality of everyday life - lurking in the background, so to speak. … Religion introduces an additional dimension to experience; once this has happened, there continues to be the awareness that the stage of everyday action is "hollow," that there is another level "beneath" it, and that the figures located there may "surface" at any moment. (Berger, 1974, p. 131)
But he does not pursue the implications of these insights for a study of the social construction and maintenance of religious realities, especially religious realities heavily influenced by alternative states of consciousness which, according to I. M. Lewis (1971), tend to flourish among downtrodden and otherwise powerless and deviant groups.
e) Socially constructed and shared. Berger and Luckman's insistence on the "world of daily life" as the "paramount reality" stems partly from the assumption that only this reality is intersubjective, or shared with others:
This intersubjectivity sharply differentiates everyday life from other realities of which I am conscious. I am alone in the world of my dreams, but I know that the world of everyday life is real to others as it is to myself. (Berger and Luckman, 1967, p. 23)
Again, they are imposing assumptions about people's understandings which do not necessarily apply universally. Just because contemporary middle- Americans find themselves "alone in the world of their dreams" does not mean that everybody is. Black Elk's aloneness with his vision nearly killed him; only when the whole tribe enacted it could he feel right again. (Neihardt, 1932, p. 131 ff) When the pilgirm Nicholas Motovilov asks Saint Seraphim of Sarov, "I do not understand how I can be firmly assured that I am in the spirit of God. How can I myself recognize
His true manifestation?" The Saint inspires him until they share a vision of blinding light, of calm, of fragrance, joy, and warmth in the midst of a Russian snowstorm. They go on to discuss the shared vision at length (Jones, 1973, p. 51-6). Castaneda even presents an account of "dreaming together" (1981,chs. 7 & 13). Indeed, Geertz assigns ritual a uniquely important role in establishing "powerful, pervasive, and longlasting moods and motivations in men" as "uniquely realistic." (1966, p. 643) The power of religious realities lies precisely in the fact that they can be shared, experienced together, communicated; and this very sharing magnifies their relevance.
Berger and Luckman's concern with shared social reality departs from psychological methodology which explores a person's mind and ideas in artificial isolation from the social environment. But when they insist that dreams and "other realities" are experienced absolutely privately, the limitations of the psychological perspective sneak in again from the back door. A truly sociological approach would explore the intersubjectivity not only of the "world of daily life" but of religious and other "realities." Just what perceptions are shared in a given culture, and how? How do practitioners verify their intersubjectivity, and what are the cultural limits of such verification?
Becker (1963) and Matza (1969), who implicitly assume that the "other reality" of marijuana intoxication is intersubjective, explore the possibility that the perception and enjoyment of marijuana effects are learned and not automatically inherent in the drug's purely chemical effect. Jules-Rosette (1975) has explored how ritual occasions are used not just to "reinforce meanings," but technically to teach and share visionary states.
The present study, which also explores the teaching of an alternative state of consciousness, discovers that this learning is not a unique event like learning the alphabet, but instead involves constant relearning. Converts guide one another again and again into the forgotten mode of perception, where they explore the novel possibilities in everyday communication, the changed significance of words, the non-meaning of habitual gestures, the new meaning of eye contact, the significance of silence. The ongoing drama in a religion like DLM lies precisely in the fact that the intersubjectivity of religious states comes and goes.
f) Variable from person to person. The assumption of intersubjectivity on whatever level must be qualified, as indeed Berger and Luckman do:
I know that my natural attitude to this world corresponds to the natural attitude of others, … I also know, of course, that the others have a perspective on this common world that is not identical with mine. My "here" is their "there." My "now" does not fully overlap with theirs. My projects differ from and may even conflict with theirs. (1967, p. 23)
But they tend to gloss over this qualification in their insistence on a "common world," an "ongoing correspondence between my meanings and their meanings." Despite this qualification they take intersubjectivity for granted rather than seeing it as problematic and worthy of further exploration. But this leads to an exaggeratedly monolithic view of society. The ethnographic focus on "beliefs and practices" - or "the world of daily life" - glosses over not only changes over time but variability between people, imposing a caricatured conformity which does not exist. Deviant religious movements like the DLM are peopled, in fact, by members alienated in varying degrees from the surrounding society, understanding the insider reality in varying degrees and
committed to it over varying lengths of time. As in every grouping, like attracts like, rival cliques form, enclaves of opinion group and regroup, zealousness or cynicism electrifies now this, now that linkage of friends. But unlike non-religious groupings, these divisions can form around differing perceptions of the nature of reality - of practicality, time, space, those elemental things Berger and Luckman are sure people together take for granted - as well as religious doctrinal questions. Rivals' struggle for power emerges from mutual incomprehensibility, and explodes when key people suddenly "see" reality differently and switch sides. To assume a high and stable level of intersubjectivity between all members of a given group is to flatten and obscure the tremendous variability.
What needs study is the negotiating of intersubjectivity, the way people work out what they will take for granted, what they understand in common, what it is that absolutely divides people who cannot understand something in common, and how it is they sometimes suddenly come to share an understanding. How do people establish a working commonality while preserving the possibility of leaping in and out of religious realities? Or is there even such a "working commonality?" Ought one to think in terms of shifting scaffolds of "as ifs," shared hopes of possibilities, shared memories of those firey, ecstatic sharings of religious reality which allayed mutual incomprehensibility and "made us all one?"
g) Varyingly opaque. The final assumption about social reality to be used in this study is that to insiders themselves, social reality is varyingly opaque. Marginal groups in particular continually question the taken-for-granted realities of the larger society, and develop
subtle and specific ways to see through and deligitimize it, constantly poking and testing for inconsistencies and loopholes. For those not born into such groups, but who drift into them as adults, the possibility that something once taken utterly for granted can be unconcocted bit by bit is a fascinating, eye opening discovery, once a person sees that this can be done, he then has the potential to do it again to the social reality of the new group. The group can deal with this potential in varying ways, erecting massive sanctions against it on the one hand, on the other hand incorporating, even encouraging it, so that members come to see the daily life reality of their own group as shifting and insubstantial, accurately congruent with the rapid changes endemic to marginality. This changeability of ordinary social reality can be presented against the backdrop of some supermundane Absolute or superior person who essentially legitimizes the obvious precariousness of everyday reality. Taken-for-grantedness thus retreats to another level, so to speak, allowing rather than surpressing doubt and continual radical questioning of everything else - and paradoxically, the seeing- through of the taken-for-granted strengthens the taken-for-grantedness of the supermundane Absolute.
The DLM vacillates in and out of this extreme position, and one can follow with interest the varying "opaqueness" of the DLM social reality - sometimes the power structure is completely legitimated by the Guru, other times completely undermined. As with the power structure, so with daily life habits, jargon, values, what might be called the DLM culture. To picture some sort of evenly opaque taken-for-granted "reality" is to miss this vacillation and the complexities which underlie it.
UNDERSTANDING A RELIGIOUS WORLDVIEW
Having used the above assumptions to delineate a theoretical model of social reality, the next step involves defining this study's task of elucidating the insiders' world, their "worldview." Robert Redfield defined "worldview" as
The picture the members of a society have of the properties and characters upon their stage of action … "world view" refers to the way the world looks to that people looking out … especially to the way a man, in a particular society, sees himself in relation to all else. It is the properties of existence as distinguished from and related to the self. It is, in short, a man's idea of the universe. It is the organization of ideas which answers to a man the questions; Where am I? Among what do I move? What are my relations to things?" (Redfield, 1952, p. 30)
Redfield elsewhere expands upon this definition beyond the ocular and cognitive emphases suggested by the terms "worldview" and "idea of the universe." "Everyman's worldview"
Includes among other things recognition of the self and others; grouping of people, some intimate and near, others far and different; some usual ways of confronting the inevitable experiences of the human career; a confrontation of the Not-Man seen in some ordered relationships of component entities, this Not-Man including both some observed features such as earth, sky, day, night, and also invisible beings, wills, and powers. (Redfield, 1953, p. 94)
He is describing how people see concrete things, people and actions as they live through day-to-day existence, yet he does not definitionally impose a necessary opposition between self and other, man and not-man. "Folk peoples," he goes on to show, conceive of "the hardly separable interpenetration of man, Nature, and God …" (1953, p. 104) Their attitude toward the "not-Man" is not one of confrontation, but of "mutuality."
Redfield's concept of "worldview" does not contradict the assumptions about social reality discussed above, but a few points need clarification. First, the idea of worldview may include the idea
of ongoing construction and maintenance of that worldview, in the sense that people feel certain obligations and responsibilities toward doing their part in maintaining traditon or family, pleasing supernatural powers, taking care of the earth, planning for posterity. They see not just what is around them, but themselves acting in relation to it. The "properties and characters upon their stage of action" includes, in other words, the actors themselves and their own actions. The "worldview" idea can, in other words, lend itself to a sense of being-in-the-world, acting-in-the-world, as well as seeing-the-world, offering something of a broadened existential flavor to this approach. Existentialists, says Aron Gurwitsh,
Do not so much concern themselves with the "world of common experience, the world of daily life," but rather with man and his existence, his ways of existing in the life-world. (1970, p. 39-40)
Such a "being-in-the-world" approach to "worldview" allows one to consider a person as a "psycho-somatic unity," to include in one's analysis "the somatic body as it is experienced and 'lived' by us in our very involvement with it." (1970, p. 39-40) One looks, in other words, at the difficulties involved in making a living,eating a special diet, undergoing tiring rituals, living communally or monastically, trying subtly to change the mode of everyday communication - all those necessary bodily activities which invariably accompany a religious worldview, and to some extent condition it. The focus on life lived as well as conceived automatically suggests a dynamic concept of worldview, variable on the one hand from person to person, shared socially on the other hand.
The assumption that worldview is multi-leveled needs further discussion. Multi-leveled implies that a religious worldview comprises not
only certain theological contents, but certain levels of consciousness, what Schutz calls "cognitive styles." Redfield suggests,
There is the relative emphasis on knowing and understanding what he confronts as against feeling about it - the affective attitude that Margaret Mead says characterizes the Arapesh as contrasted with the more cognitive way of confronting which I should say characterizes the Yucatec Maya. The cognitive way of confronting it is necessary, or comes into development, insofar as the worldview gets to be expressed informatively, even reflectively. Where there are people who can tell the ethnologists … of their worldview, there are people who more than feel about things; they know about them. (Redfield, 1953, p. 98)
"Knowing" about things implies experiential knowing. In a religious culture which emphasizes the frequent or daily experience of visions, trance states, lucid dreams, extra-ordinary perceptions, or meditative concentration, a kind of "knowing" will arise which greatly colors world- view and the activities which support it. What is unseen to the ethnologist is seen to the "native," seen and obvious, reproducible in a quasi- scientific sense, verified by tradition and by one another, expected, counted upon - even, one might say, taken for granted.
This special knowing - special to the ethnologist - may not be special to the people involved because it intertwines so with daily life activities. They may set aside specific times and places for one religious ritual, the attaining of one special state, but let other ritual events, other states (equally impressive to the outsider) come and go by happenstance. If they divide the special from the nonspecial in their lives at all, they do not necessarily do it in a way which fits others' notions of special and nonspecial.
Alternative states of consciousness, after all, are subject to varying interpretations. A certain startling dream may give a person in one society a new high status, in another heightened psychiatric concern, in another an imposed exorcism, in another a good yarn for the campfire.
The outsider must know which special states are considered special by the insider, feared or exalted, and which special states are ignored, unnoticed, or considered mundane. Otherwise he may make much of what seems to the insider routine, and distort his rendition of the insider worldview.
* * * * *
This study proposes to see a multi-leveled religious worldview coming alive as the ground of social life. It concentrates much attention on special meditative states of consciousness not only to counteract other researchers' tendency to ignore them, but also because the insiders are so all-consumingly involved with these states. This study sees these states both individually and socially. That is, it shows in detail the lengths to which individuals go to control and concentrate their minds, channel their activities toward religious ends, pray and meditate; it shows the difficulties of meditation, and its uses on social as well as solitary, special as well as ordinary occasions. But the study also explores the social side of religious awareness; learning how to do it, the accompanying language and interpretation, morality and lifestyle and above all the continued effort in ongoing conversation to promote and maintain it in one another.
This focus addresses the question of why people involve themselves in such a group by suggesting that, along with alienation from the larger society, need for community, ego-weakness, the need for a father-figure, the cooling-out of 1960's radicalism, and all the other explanations that have been put forth - along with all this, the members find in their meditative experiences something they enjoy and value and find meaningful which they could not find in their ordinary life.
The state affects them powerfully and they want to feel it again and again. This study also looks at the question of how the group continues to survive by considering not just economic, political, and social-psychological explanations, but also by exploring the mechanism of how the meaning-system, which intertwines with the meditative state, is maintained not only officially by organizational decisions, but unofficially by common members in their day-in-day-out life routines, in their attempt to sacralize their interaction with one another and thus live out their common life in a sacred reality.
NOTES TO CHAPTER II
1) For a discussion of a deviant "world," see Matza, 1969, p. 26 ff.
2) For a discussion of "etic" and "emic" approaches, see Harris, 1968, pp. 571-575.
3) Most new-age mystics and social scientists, counterculture adherents, and of course DLM followers - and even some theologians and historians of religion - accepted for themselves the "intuition" stereotype, relegating "reason," "straight" or "linear" thinking (and by implication uptightness, macho self-centeredness, the urge to destroy nature, and so on) to the U. S. government, capitalists, "vulgar" Marxists, Judeo-Christians, white Western non-counterculture males in general, physical and social scientists. Non-new-age social scientists, on the other hand, set up "reason" as both right and true, an absolute ontological and moral standard. Ignoring that which fell short of "reason" in themselves, they labeled that which fell short in others as "prelogical," "anti-intellectual," "hallucinatory," "pathological," or else they denied unreason by excavating the psyche or the social situation to expose underlying, obscured "reasonable" motives:
"Academic social scientists, who were now among the last serious defenders of the rationalistic world view common in the nineteenth century, often became deeply hostile to the counterculture, branding it a new 'dark age.'" (Veysey, 1973, p. 420)
4) Lukes (1975, p. 515) quoted in Stone (1978, p. 146)
5) Cited in Stone (1978, p. 149) Stone goes on to caution, "If researchers are realistically aware that love of the object of study produces certain kinds of blindness as well as certain kinds of perspicuity, then they are sufficiently forewarned. Maslow here is referring to research on monkeys.
6) Berger and Luckman drew this notion from Mead.