Even though I am thoroughly anti-institutional, I totally understand now why many Eastern traditions require a teacher to begin advanced practices. I've seen things that are incredibly hard to grasp the meaning of, unless in an abstract and symbolic manner. And they are usually terrifying, as you can imagine a symbolic language of images would be - mystical visions are filled with all manner of mythical monsters, demons, beasts, animal-headed beings, and generally what in many cases are horrifying to our sensibilities. Some visions are of the angelic, divine, and splendidly beautiful. Generally people as fucked up as those in a materialist society that depreciates nature and the spiritual aren't going to experience golden light and rainbows. They have a lot of shit to confront. What are we experiencing though? Aspects of ourselves? Actual spirits? Archetypal manifestations of aspects? Sure. Nobody fucking knows is the answer. But we do know that the brave among us can communicate with something "Other", and that the "Other" can be accommodating, loving, caring or can also prostrate us and leave use groveling and mumbling in terror, which generally is what happened to those in the Bible who ended up being visited by an Angel of the Lord.
The West is severely lacking a map of spirit and of consciousness. We have Hermetic Qabala, Jung, Joseph Campbell, and then we got fucking Chaos Magick and The Secret, and a society drenched in postmodernism and new thought metaphysics. Today's Charismatic Christians have no idea they are espousing New Thought, no matter how many times Hank Hanegraaff tells them. They don't have the ability to listen. Postmodernism cuts the ears and eyes out.
The great occult masters of today are awash with the knowledge and wisdom found in the mono-culture of Ufology, the Paranormal and Forteana. We have hyper-religious nerds, who are most certainly pseudo-intellectuals (wanna-be know-it-alls who likely haven't even read Asimov or Sagan but surely have the latest vellum edition from that finesse ass occult publisher) proclaiming the purity and truth of the systems of magic found within Judaeo-Christian grimoires or the infernal French inverses of such.
Three steps forward and a tremendous fall backward for consciousness evolution in the West. Our schools are those based in ego and institution and paid subscription internet courses run by small-time wanna-be politicians and pop-occult entrepreneurs. There is then only one real option for the seeker, and that is to head East, following Stephen Skinner's lead. There we can perhaps lose our faith in rationalism, Aristotelian logic and the scientific method. Those are legitimate tools to which faith towards a salvation should not be applied. Rationality is not rationalism. Science is not scientism. And with logicians such as Graham Priest rising to the occasion of introducing Eastern philosophies into Western academia, maybe it won't be neccessary to go East in a lifetime or two. I'm hopeful. We already adopted what we perceive as the aesthetic of the East: sushi and yoga mats. Maybe we'll even come to tolerate orthodox sects of Buddhism and Hinduism instead of this secularized mindfulness bean-sprout pretzel shit.
With a qualified teacher of a lineage you receive direct teachings along with initiation. We in the West are all working blind. John Dee was a Christian intellectual working towards imperialism. Aleister Crowley and the anal-retentive Golden Dawn folk we owe a tremendous debt to for recovering what they did, but it is hopelessly incomplete. The Western mind is not equipped to handle dialetheism, much less the holographic multiverse of the Flower Adornment Sutra or even the notion of a daimon being a daimon in the sense of Socrates spirit of critical and reflective thinking rather than a demon in the Judaeo-Christian sense.
I feel somewhat cheated being born in 1980 and coming to have grown as much as I have, and very likely not being able to see the fruition of the ideas that I have by reading, by curiousity, by experience, and by initiation, been introduced to. It is for this reason I write—with the hope that there will be those in the future who say, "Ah, look, how quaint—some old shit in the 21st Century got where we were headed, sort of." That and the realization that now is the time for true trail-blazers to make ingresses past the barriers that hold back the 21st Century mind: Fear, a feeling of unworthiness, and a sense of obligation to tradition. Postmodernism crippled religious, social and political institution, not to mention enabled the revealing of what the institution of higher education really is, which is irrelevant. All that we envisioned for America's future is manifesting in China's present. The words of Apple's CEO Tim Cook will come to haunt us as our GDP becomes dwarfed by China's. "Alas!", the future will say, "they couldn't see the forest for the TVs".