And following the experience---after I got to know the Pranksters, I went back and read Joachim Wach's paradigm of the way religions are founded, written in 1944, and it was almost like a piece of occult precognition for me if I played it off against what I knew about the Pranksters:Following a profound new experience, providing a new illumination of the world, the founder, a highly charismatic person, begins enlisting disciples. These followers become an informally but closely knit association, bound together by the new experience, whose nature the founder has revealed and interpreted. The association might be called a circle, indicating that it is oriented toward a central figure with whom each of the followers is in intimate contact. The followers may be regarded as the founder's companions, bound to him by personal devotion, friendship and loyalty. A growing sense of solidarity both binds the members together and differentiates them from any other form of social organization. Membership in the circle requires a complete break with the ordinary pursuits of life and a radical change in social relationships. Ties of family and kinship and loyalties of various kinds were at least temporarily relaxed or severed. The hardships, suffering and persecution that loomed for those who cast their lot with the group were counterbalanced by their high hopes and firm expectations. . . and so on.And of the founder himself: he has "visions, dreams, trances, frequent ecstasies" . . . "unusual sensitiveness and an intense emotional life" . . . "is ready to interpret manifestations of the divine" . . . "there is something elemental about [him], an uncompromising attitude and an archaic manner and language" . . . "He appears as a renewer of lost contracts with the hidden powers of life" . . . "does not usually come from the aristocracy, the learned or the refined; frequently he emerges from simpler folk and remains true to his origin even in a changed environment" . . . "speaks cryptically, with words, signs, gestures, many metaphors, symbolic acts of a diverse nature" . . . "illuminates and interprets the past and anticipates the future in terms of the kairos (the supreme moment)"---
The kairos!---the experience!
---in one of two ways, according to Max Weber: as an "ethical" prophet, like Jesus or Moses, who outlines rules of conduct for his followers and describes God as a super-person who passes judgment on how they live up to the rules. Or as an "exemplary" prophet, like Buddha: for him, God is impersonal, a force, an energy, a unifying flow, an All-in-one. The exemplary prophet does not present rules of conduct. He presents his own life as an example for his followers . . .
In all these religious circles, the groups became tighter and tighter by developing their own symbols, terminology, life styles, and, gradually, simple cultic practices, rites, often involving music and art, all of which grew out of the new experience and seemed weird or incomprehensible to those who have never had it. At that point they would also . . . "develop a strong urge to extend the message to all people."
. . . all people . . . Within the religious circles, status was always a simple matter. The world was simply and sheerly divided into "the aware," those who had had the experience of being vessels of the divine, and a great mass of "the unaware," "the unmusical," "the unattuned." Or: you're either on the bus or off the bus.
Tags: Tom Wolfe, author, literature, esquire