|by Jay Kinney and Ya'qub ibn Yusuf|
JAY KINNEY: For most of our loyal readers, the word "Orthodoxy" is about as attractive as the word "Orthodontist." Orthodoxy, especially in terms of the Western religions, has come to mean a life of the straight and narrow, the acceptance of traditional authority, and an adversarial stance towards modern secular culture. In other words, a good synonym for "Orthodoxy" would seem to be "killjoy," and most people with at least a minimum of sophistication do not wish to be pegged as party poopers.
Of course Orthodoxy, in a positive sense, also means much more than this. In view of this, the editorial policy here at GNOSIS is conceived along the lines of certain lyrics by the Rolling Stones: "You can't always get what you want, but . . . you just might find, you get what you need." In this issue we decided to turn your expectations on their head, so we set out to see what good things could be said about Orthodoxy from the perspective of esoteric and mystical interests. As it turns out, some good things indeed showed up in our mailbox, and this issue's articles and interviews ought to stack up just fine against those of the past.
The original idea for this issue was proposed by long-time contributing editor, Ya'qub ibn Yusuf, during a visit to the GNOSIS offices last year. He has served as co-editor for the issue, lining up two of the three interviews and helping out with advice and enthusiasm. The following are a few of his thoughts on this issue's theme.
YA'QUB IBN YUSUF: The theme of this issue of GNOSIS was negatively "inspired" when I read Jay Kinney's editorial in issue #12 on Sects and Schisms. Jay wrote of the "fundamental fact that the esoteric spiritual traditions of the West have, for millennia, been more or less at odds with the prevailing orthodoxies." While I would agree that they have often been at odds with the prevailing religious institutions of the day, many of the esoteric spiritual traditions of the West would not have conceived of themselves as schisms, cults, or sects, but precisely as the original orthodox (that is, "doctrinally correct") tradition - with its outward forms of practice and belief, and its inner essence of gnosis or spiritual realization. There are, indeed, many spiritual seekers in the West today who have been drawn to orthodox forms of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam (as well as orthodox forms of Hinduism and Buddhism), as the framework within which to pursue an authentic spiritual path. Meanwhile, those of us who are pursuing consciously unorthodox teachings - or who are "doing our own thing" based on a variety of sources - owe a debt of gratitude to these various orthodox traditions for preserving much of the teaching from which we draw.
It has been my experience that there is a great depth of understanding to be found within the various orthodox traditions. Orthodoxies who claim a unique apprehension of the Truth may indeed strike us as being exclusive. But if we immediately write them off and turn a deaf ear to their claims, it will be we who are excluding them - and who will suffer the loss of their perspective and knowledge. There's a danger in the New Age movement of "open-mindedness" and "universality" becoming a new dogma, which only serves to separate "us" who pay lip-sevice to these ideals, from "them" who do not. In other words, we need to guard against saying "unless you say you're as liberal as I am, I don't want to hear you!" Far better, it seems to me, to be a flexible, open-minded traditionalist, than a rigidly doctrinaire liberal.
So, it is in the spirit of the courage to explore, with respect for traditional forms of practice and belief, and with love for God in all forms, that I invite GNOSIS readers to join us in this inquiry into some of the worlds of orthodox spirituality.
(c) copyright 1990 by Jay Kinney and Ya'qub ibn Yusuf