Charles Upton is a Traditionalist and Sufi Muslim, and the author of 17 books on spirituality. His most recent book is Vectors of the Counter-Initiation: The Course and Destiny of Inverted Spirituality. He recently spoke to People of Shambhala about authentic spirituality, initiation, counter-initiation, Sufism, Islam, and globalism.
PoS: Your latest book is Vectors of the Counter Initiation. Perhaps you can just explain what is initiation and, as such, what is counter-initiation?
Charles Upton: Initiation is essentially a transmission to an individual of an influence that, in its legitimate form, comes from the founders of the major world religions. In Christianity it’s externalized as the apostolic succession, where Christ chose and consecrated the disciples. They became bishops who consecrated others, and this became the line of bishops and priests we have today. In Sufism, within Islam, an influence and perhaps teachings were transmitted to ibn Ali Talib, and the first caliph, Abu Bakr. And these [influences] were passed from individuals through the Sufi orders, etc., etc.
You see the same thing in Buddhism – the transmission of a spiritual influence from human being to human being throughout the generations. And the purpose of this is to quicken one’s spiritual development, and, God willing, open dimensions of understanding that will help draw one closer to God.
“Counter-initiation” is a term invented by Rene Guenon, a French metaphysician. He spent a long time in the occult underworld of France between the two world wars, and came out of there understanding that a lot of dark stuff was going on.
PoS: So, today, with Occupy Wall Street, there were a lot of people doing Yoga and meditation. I wouldn’t want to say that’s exactly New Age, but New Age spirituality and things like that are big today. Is that initiatic? Or counter-initiatic?
CU: Well, it can be. It’s closer to what Guenon called “pseudo-initiatic.” People who do not have a real initiatory connection invent it on their own. They know that something like that exists [elsewhere], so they make it up [for themselves]. But operating within these groups may be actually counter-initiatory cadres, whose conscious intent is to undermine and destroy the world’s religions, and even the world’s esoteric spiritualities within those religions.
There are a lot of good intent within the New Age, but one of the difficulties within the New Age – and this is perhaps even more pronounced in neo-paganism – is that there is no sense of the Absolute. And so it descends to what we call in Islam the worship of the Jinn, the worship of psychic entities and forces.
PoS: You’re a convert to Sufi Islam.
CU: I didn’t so much convert as advance to the point that I got there, but, yes, okay, that’s good enough; I am.
PoS: So, how do you see the vectors of counter-initiation (to borrow from your title)?
CU: Well, what I am saying is that the globalists are trying to control all of the world’s religions. They’re doing it by infiltrating and co-opting them, and also infiltrating and co-opting esoteric groups. They are inventing various spurious religious ideologies in their think tanks… and spreading these throughout society in order to divert people’s attention away from the true and God-given religions.
Also, they are gaining a great deal of control of the interfaith movement. Which, in its inception is a good idea – people simply want to get along with each other between the religions, and reduce religious violence, and this is all a very good impulse – but if you look at the people that are taking this over… there’s a great desire on the part of the powers that be to control the interfaith movement, because, firstly, they can increase their surveillance of the religions. Secondly, if the unity of the religions, or tolerance between the religions, is erected into an absolute, the religions will deconstruct themselves and each other by getting rid of whatever points of contention separate them, so all of the religions are weakened by this.
PoS: Yes, what I’ve noticed about the interfaith movement is that it presents an image of religion that is very liberal, and as all about, say, human rights, and this sort of thing.
CU: Yes, in other words it becomes politics.
PoS: Yes, they’re extreme political, that’s right.
CU: It politicizes religion. One of the slogans is “doctrine divides, action unites.” This is saying that any doctrine that divides is bad, so the Christians shouldn’t say that Jesus is the Son of God and Muslims shouldn’t say that the Koran is divinely revealed, and so on. And what happens is that so often the premises of discussion, the agenda, is set by people who aren’t involved in religion at all – who are coming our of government or global think tanks. And the people in the religions, all they see is “ah well, people in places of importance are interested in us.” They do not see that they are being manipulated.
PoS: Regarding Sufism, some New Age spiritual groups in the West have absorbed some elements of Islam, but repackage it as a multi-faith political expression. And I wonder if we’re not seeing the convergence of two fundamentalisms: Wahhabi Islamism which is being absorbed by a New Age fundamentalism. What do you think about that?
CU: From the perspective of the United States, there are very few people on the New Age who would be interested in anything like Wahhabism. They’re considered the enemy not simply by the American Right, but the New Age is attracted to the opposite poll, which is a kind of de-Islamicized Sufism as a universalism. But this is being actively promoted by globalist think tanks as an alternative to Wahhabism…
At the same time, the West, we are being told that we want to support tolerant, mystical, universalist Islam – i.e. Sufism – but we’re against he Wahhabis. Well, it’s coming out in the Arab Spring that the Western powers are supporting many Wahhabi groups, because they’re involved in the opposition in Syria, as they were in Libya and also in Egypt… And of course the idea that the United States could be supporting elements of al-Qaeda is inconceivable to most Americans. Yet it’s coming out in the “legitimate news” that there are elements of al-Qaeda in the “liberation movements” that we’re supporting… Those who want power have realized that to hold a particular ideology is counter-productive. What they want is to be able to co-opt and use any ideology.
PoS: What do you make of situations in Europe, where there are Muslims gangs, but that the police are unwilling to prosecute them for fear of being seen as racist or politically incorrect? It’s come out recently, that the police have essentially refused to prosecute because they didn’t want to upset the “Muslim community” – which I think says a lot about what they think of Muslims; but it’s also very bad policy.
CU: There seems to be a will [among the elites] to break down the national state. And the globalists can use the idea of a liberal and “just” immigration policy to break down the national state. I put it this way: the globalization of the elites leads to the balkanization of the masses.
PoS: And as you’re suggesting, you then get identity politics, and gangs, and so on.
CU: It has nothing to do with religion.
PoS: So, what is your understanding of Islamism?
CU: The Wahhabis were a revolution that developed in the 18th century, and they conquered the Arabian Peninsula in 1925 with the help of the British Empire and in the name, ultimately, of the oil companies. This was a group that was used by the West to open up the Near East to oil exploration as controlled by the West. If you ask if they’re counter-initiatory, they’re not initiatory enough to be counter-initiatory. They’re what Guenon called “anti-Traditional.” They’re not the perversion of an initiatory spirituality; they are simply the reduction of a religion to a political ideology.
And the Wahhabi’s certainly have no love for the prophet Mohammed. When they conquered Medina they destroyed the tombs of all the prophet’s companions, and almost destroyed his own tomb. They do not like the prophet in particular, because he prohibited suicide, he prohibited attacks on non-combatants in war. Certainly the Wahhabis are not following this Suna of the prophet. They are using Islam simply as an identification tag for a certain set of ethic groups. As for the norms of the religion, they have largely – not entirely – but they have destroyed a great deal of what Islam has always been.
But it’s not simply a question of whether one is a Sufi kind of Muslim or a Wahhabi kind of Muslim. I recently met a doctor from Egypt. We got talking, and I understood that he is a traditional Muslim who doesn’t trust the Sufis because he thinks that they’re a strange, popular movement that’s kind of heterodox – which is fairly common, and this idea is partly influenced by the Wahhabis. But also he looks at various Islamic extremist groups as very problematic. He’s simply a Muslim who wants to practice his religion. He doesn’t identify with the mystical aspect of the religion, but doesn’t want his religion to be turned into a political ideology either. There are a lot of those people, but they have no voice.
PoS: Yes, exactly. So do you think the problem is the modernizing of the religion, whether its Wahhabism or New Age-type religion?
CU: Well, yes, it’s modernization. Simply, God become less plausible. First God is reduced to a moral imperative. And then you can take the imperative to a humanistic level, and not need God as a source for that imperative.
PoS: Lastly, what do you make of Europe? Europe has lost its religion and identity, and I think this is a big part of the reason why you do have problems with Islamism and Muslim gangs.
CU: Yes, a lot of Muslims are being drawn into a spiritual and demographic vacuum in Europe. I think when the Second Vatican Council deconstructed traditional [Roman Catholic] Christianity that was the beginning of the end of Europe. The Church was still the linchpin – not acknowledged as such – of Western civilization. Because if Western civilization is not Christendom, it’s not a civilization. And so what you get is a kind of a bardo – which is a Tibetan word for the after-death state in which all of what has been hidden in the psyche is starting to be divulged.
You have a bardo of European culture in which all of this old pagan material is being released, and people suddenly think “well, we can go back to Celtic or Norse [paganism], to Asatru, and we’ll be the folk again.” And you see this beginning – I hate to say – with Hitler. I’m sorry, this is simply not going to work. This is simply the ghosts of the dead passing before our eyes on their journey to the next world. They’re leaving the underworld of ancestral memory. Nothing will come of this.
You can’t re-paganize Europe. And you can’t have a stable Europe without a religion either. This is why the powers that be want to create a one-world religion, because they understand that some sort of religious belief or worldview is necessary to stabilize civilization. What they don’t realize is that religions are not created by human beings. They’re sent by God. And their religion is definitely not sent by God.