The Essence of Religion

Preface
It has been suggested that all modern philosophy begins with doubt (JC, p. 80). When one philosophizes, they agree to take nothing for granted, and even to question themselves backward into a corner if need be. Cornering oneself in such a way becomes the goal of philosophical inquiry, as once trapped by one’s own thoughts, the answer is deemed found, as the dialectic of doubt has seemingly lead one in reverse to the very base and background of all being (i.e., that which cannot be doubted). One merely needs to turn around and take note of the boundary, as here it must be that all being begins. But such a method-so perfectly calibrated to avoid all missteps and mistakes, so expertly designed to provide unquestionably objective knowledge of the world-can tell us nothing at all of the subtleties of life. Doubt leads us down a path that can end only with an indifferent truth: a truth of abstraction and rational argument divorced from the concrete and personal truth of bodily life. With doubt as our guide, the life of the body, the most tangible form of human existence, begins to resemble, in Hegel’s words, “a hole in being” (PP, p. 249). Explaining away the individual human life in such a way leaves one with a dead and dissected slab of meat, its life sucked out and absorbed by the universal truths discovered by way of methodical doubt. All its mystery has been swept up into the philosopher’s ink well and then neatly ordered and explained in writing upon the page for all to see and understand.
The method of this essay, in contrast, will not be philosophic; which is to say, it will not begin and end with doubt. Our topic is the essence of religion, that last remaining mode of expression where the simple mystery of individual existence finds its primordial importance even amidst the cluttered minds of modern men and women. We must ask the reader to suspend their doubting tendencies and to leave the religious question open so as not to approach it merely academically. Only then can it become a “genuine living option,” in James’ words (TET, p. 349).
This essay will be written in the manner of a gesture, rather than a discursive argument. Its meaning is intended to be taken “just so,” as though it were cueing something already obvious to the reader that has merely been forgotten. One can of course disagree with it, but know that in so doing one has turned down only an invitation, not a rational argument. The author is standing on the far edge of a precipice. The abyss between he and the reader is deep and darkness prevents them both from even guessing at the distance to the bottom. The author writes, not in an attempt to prove why leaping across makes sense, but to “flail his arms” so as to convince the reader to follow him across without knowing exactly why, as the reason only becomes clear after the invitation has been accepted and the leap has been taken.
Defining Religion
What is religion? As it is a question of essence, we can be sure it will not reveal itself easily. If we begin with etymology we discover that the word derives from the Latin, religare, “to bind.” This leads us only to a new question: What is it in religion that is bound together? After some thought, we may venture that religion binds what is human with what is divine. But by what method could such a connection be forged? It is the opinion of this humble author that such a connection becomes possible only as the result of an unmediated mystical experience. The essence of religion, then, may be described as “that” which is apprehended in a first-hand experience of the sacred.[1]
We may be tempted at this point to conclude that an unmediated mystical state of union with the divine provides an answer to the more functional question, Why do we need religion?, as though such an experience lead to an easier, more enjoyable and fulfilled life. However, posing such a question pulls the veil back over what we have just revealed to be essential to religion. As Keiji Nishitani has said, asking about the utility of religion “…obscures the way to its own answer from the very start. It blocks our becoming a question to ourselves” (E, p. 341). This becoming a question to ourselves is the crucial step toward experiencing the sacred. The person who first asks What for? does not realize that any answer already assumes the answer to For who? has been provided. The primary question for the religious person is always “Why do I exist?” The answer is never final or unambiguous because it is not the question itself that is of most import. Rather, it is the act of asking it-and asking it passionately-that brings us to the religious experience, to union with God, our truest identity.
Such a definition of religion strikes traditional theist as blasphemous because it does not respect the ultimate separation between creator and creation. For the atheist, it is merely more self-suggested nonsense created by the imagination to give meaning to a world that cares not the least about human beings. To the scientist, all such claims of unity with the sacred are first met with skepticism and finally dismissed when the burden of empirical proof appears lacking. The philosopher, the champion of logic and rationality, recoils at the assertions of mystics because they appear to him to be emotional pleas appealing only to the passions while often mocking the intellect. The politician sees in such mysticism a cowardly retreat from the reality of evil and an impractical distain for the day-to-day lives of average people. Lost in all this criticism of religious experience is the actual individual, the one who is born and who dies-the one who can never be quite sure of their own whence or whither. Our exposition will focus on this individual and on his/her solitary confrontation with and assimilation of the unknown and unconscious, with his/her experience of the sacred. We will, along the way, answer the critics (the theologian, the atheist, the scientist, the philosopher, the politician) using what might best be termed depth psychology. Our perspective will be one centered on the psyche, the whole human-body, mind and soul. We do so at the behest of Carl Jung, who reminds us that, “…all immediate experience, all that I experience, is psychic” (MMSS, p. 190-191). Our goal is to describe, as clearly as possible, what it means to be an individual asking the most central of religious questions: Who am I?
The Psyche
To begin, let us first clear up the ontology of experience as it relates to the term “psyche.” One may at first feel justified assuming that experience is what a psyche has, as though the psyche were the subjective self and experience were the objective world it encountered. This confusion is to be avoided. Such a dualism between mind and matter succeeds only in providing us with a conceptual distinction between appearance and reality. When it is of crucial importance that we understand the difference between what we think and what we know, as when we design and build skyscrapers or rocket ships, then distinguishing between my own mind and the matter at hand is quite an intelligent device. But when our task is to bring to light the nature of the psyche, we must remember that it “…does not trouble itself about our categories of reality, and it would therefore be the better part of wisdom for us to say: everything that acts is actual” (MMSS, p. 73). Viewing the human being as a psychic being amounts to no more than the admission that everything we experience, whether it arises out of mental or physical activity, is actual-it can and does matter for the individual. We could also put it as Kierkegaard has: “Immediate sensation and cognition cannot deceive” (PF, p. 82). To be clear, we must admit that many an illusion may appear to the psyche, but such illusions are “real” and cannot deceive because their immediate occurrence has a direct effect on the meaning of one’s personal life.
When seen as a psyche, the human being appears to suffer from an irreconcilably divided nature. On the one hand, we exist as finite beings born to a specific family in a specific place at a specific time. As a result we suffer all the characteristic flaws of carnal reality, ignorance and death chief among them. Most of us remain stuck in this kind of worldly existence and never take seriously intimations of anything more. On the other hand, those of us who don’t ignore such intimations and who are drawn toward a deeper understanding of our own identity may gain an inkling of the soul that remains unborn in eternity as an infinite being with direct access to a truth that transcends all finite categories. If we agree that nature can make no mistakes (if it did, who would be the judge?), how could we be anything but perfectly spontaneous and wonderful manifestations of the eternal becomingness of creation? How could a separation between creature and creation ever arise?
Wait a minute… one may say. I agree about my limits, but I have never been privy to eternity or transcendence, or to the becomingness of creation, and I’ve yet to see proof of any soul, what on earth are you talking about? Herein lays the essential difficulty of referring to any “mystical experience” to begin with. It seems to follow that there are some who have seen the light and some who have not. We might then assume that the experience must be wedged inside time between when one has not yet experienced it and when one has already experienced it. The apparent requirement that something eternal occur also within time gives rise to a paradox, and we draw our ego nearer to its own limit as we attempt to approach an understanding of it. “This,” Kierkegaard says, “is the ultimate paradox of thought: to want to discover something that thought itself cannot think” (PF, p. 37).
The Coincidence of Opposites
The one who claims never to have experienced eternity is caught in a profane world of passionless thoughts about thoughts, of self-reflection ad infinitum. The events of each passing moment become yet another chance to reinterpret some provisional understanding of what it means (or doesn’t mean) to be alive, though even calling it “meaning” seems to cheapen the word by leaving it always vulnerable to reinterpretation or negation. It is of no surprise then that this kind of person would report having had no knowledge of anything but his or her own every day life. But to concede that such a person’s entire being lacked some understanding of the mystical, of the presence of the infinite, would be to overvalue what the ego has reported and ignore what the unconscious has left unsaid. Because a human being is composed of both conscious and unconscious elements, we cannot always believe what consciousness appears to say, as it only represents the surface of the total substance of the psyche. Hegel, for instance, wants to see the individual as a “hole in being” because he acknowledges only the conscious half of the psyche, as any good philosopher is forced to do.[2] Only an individual with an empty hole for a mind could accurately gather up the objective truths of the universal without distorting them with his/her particularity. Our psychic perspective, however, sees the individual not as a hole, but “a hollow,[3] a fold, which has been made and which can be unmade” (PP, p. 250). Just as all light, to be noticed, must cast a shadow, all consciousness must exist in contradiction. The plain and ordinary life of the one who claims ignorance of the divine is no denial of the sacred at all, but a clear example of its necessity. A person may be conscious only of their finite ordinariness, but they understand themselves as such only in relation to the germ of heaven ruminating in them unconsciously (in the fold, so to speak).
This coincidentia oppositorum is a trick of the intellect, useful only “…if we are willing to contradict ourselves…” (MMSS, p.189). When we come upon something that eludes our conceptual grasp, we must resort to dividing it into its antithetical halves in order to make any sense of it at all. In the end, though, “the conflict of the material and the spiritual aspects of life only shows that the psyche is an incomprehensible something” (MMSS, p. 189). But rather then allow ourselves to merge with this unknown, this “incomprehensible something,” we cultivate the willingness to contradict ourselves, to be “a relation that [refuses to, or is unable to] relate itself to itself” (SUD, p. 13). We increase the crease of the fold in our being in an attempt to transcend ourselves objectively, from the outside in. This is the impetus that begins the process of becoming an individual. As human beings we are given the cultural task of self-definition, though we never succeed in achieving it once and for all. As Dante has said, “The desire for perfection [to be fully oneself] is that desire which always makes every pleasure appear incomplete, for there is no joy or pleasure so great in this life that it can quench the thirst in our soul” (GD, p. 45). We are told in the face of all life’s possibilities, not to mention the inevitability of our own death, that we must solve a problem that cannot be solved (this forces the experience of paradox upon us, whether we’re ready for it or not). We must become a free individual even while it is plainly obvious that our existence is wholly contingent on what is other than ourselves (our historical situation, future possibilities, etc.). “This style of man,” says Alan Watts, “must therefore see himself as the ghastly and tragic accident of sensitive and intelligent tissue caught up in the cosmic toils like a mouse in a cotton gin” (BT, p. 6).
And what do you propose we ought to do about it? As individuals, it appears at first as though we were trapped in a perilous situation. But before we resign ourselves to tragedy, let us attempt to ponder a solution by answering the critics.
The Critics
To the theologian, we respond that God cannot be made fully conscious, i.e. there can be no rational proofs of God’s existence. To think of God as another kind of being that might be understood as we understand a car or a house is to forget that God is not a single entity in space-time, but Being itself. Any attempt to describe God remains hopelessly flawed, as Being seems forever to jump ahead of the understanding, not because of its own motion,[4] but due to the understanding’s standing within the becomingness of time. If we assume for a moment that the theologian is Christian, we ask why the religion of Jesus became a religion about Jesus. That is, why must the story of Christ refer only to the single historical incarnation of Jesus of Nazareth and not to everyman whose paradoxical experience may lead them to the same transformation and rebirth? Why must the example of Jesus be worshipped rather than followed? I am not suggesting that the literal Biblical story be reenacted by moderns; just that such doctrinal restrictions leave Christians without an experiential connection to God because the savior appears to be a separate being with no significant relation to them. The market effect of this brand of Christianity has been to raise a society of moral lemmings in need of the educational support of an elite class of priests. In the case of reformed Christianity, church services have been reduced to “the centuries-old echo” of the “chatter among men about this thing” (PF, p. 71) the savior. Christianity has lost an essential component by not doctrinally offering an experiential connection with God before death. “Perhaps a particular philosopher had doubted for all just as Christ suffered for all, and is one now only supposed to believe it and not doubt for oneself?” (JC, p. 154).
To the atheist, we can say only that one need not deny something that does not exist. If it does not exist, why even bring it up? Nietzsche declared, “God is dead” (E, p. 67), but this in no way implies God’s non-existence. On the contrary, the psychic fact of God’s death has had an untold effect on the spiritual life of modern humanity. As we have already shown, anything that acts is actual. It matters not how we decide to divide experience into illusion and reality, as such distinctions occur after the pre-conceptual psychic facts have already had their influence on us. If the atheist must declare that he/she does not believe, the faithful can only respond by asking: What is it that you do not believe in? For the faithful themselves, mere words such as “God” or “Spirit” do not contain the mysteriousness of their own commitment. One has faith, not in an idea or a word, but in a non-idea, in an unknown. Surely then, to disbelieve, one must either, a) set up a straw man in place of true religion, thereby rejecting only an idol, or, b) be unable to let go of their own supposed knowledge of the truth.[5] It seems then that the faithful do not know what they believe and the unfaithful do not know what they disbelieve, the only difference between them being that the faithful admit their ignorance while the unfaithful wallow in pride.
To the scientist, we first applaud their open-mindedness. We next direct them to the intimate study of any one of a number of non-dual contemplative traditions, whether it be Vedanta Hinduism, Taoism, Sufism, Zen Buddhism, or even Christianity.[6] Each tradition provides a unique path or method of dialogue with the eternal that is designed to convince the seeker that they are the unity they are searching for. Each path amounts to an experiment; if the scientist consents to follow the way, they may experience something remarkable.
This remarkable encounter with the infinite may require that the scientist reevaluate their philosophical assumptions. This leads us to the philosopher, whose criticism it seems we must accept. Bertrand Russell put it thus: “I believe that, when the mystics contrast ‘reality’ with ‘appearance,’ the word ‘reality’ has not a logical, but an emotional, significance: it means what is, in some sense, important” (RS). We agree that it is important, but we find it of greater importance to explore exactly why the scientist’s philosophical assumptions may lead to a biased interpretation of said mystical experience. If it were true that the distinction between the sacred and the profane is an “emotional” one, then the scientist’s observational techniques would negate a priori the results of any contemplative experiment. The scientific method demands reason and reservation; it cannot run roughshod over the facts because it wishes to express an agreeable sentiment. But reason itself does not require that we employ a specific metaphysical interpretation to our direct experience. The scientist may remain lucid even while allowing their own subjectivity to become an aspect of utmost importance to their investigation. Much like the training required for traditional experimental scientific work, the mental training required before a scientist of experience were capable of such psychic gymnastics would be extensive. Indeed, we might even be forced to suppose that only those who are already naturally inclined to seek out so profound an understanding of themselves could fill such roles adequately. This is a complete makeover of our historical image of the scientist, that given him by Sir Francis Bacon as he who conquers and subjugates nature to his own will. Bacon’s science is the science of masculinity; it is sterile, penetrating, efficient, and manipulative.[7] The science we are attempting to articulate above is a feminine science; it is vital, expressive, and can observe without interference. Instead of accepting as evidence only what is sensed externally, it is open to what is intuited inwardly. The philosopher’s claim that emotion is essential to the mystical experience does not necessarily prevent scientific observation. On the contrary, as long as the scientist acknowledges their own subjectivity while retaining the discriminative abilities of their intellect, value can become a verifiable aspect of existence and a science of revelation becomes possible. This new science, though, is not a science whose truths are easily communicable. The study of higher states of consciousness is open only to individual scientists and its results may have little relevance for others who haven’t yet done the necessary experiments.
It is for exactly this reason that the politician is suspicious of the value mystics attribute to their “higher, holier purposes.” It is not because such values are too emotional, but because they are irrelevant to the lives of most people. The mystic contemplates God, delving into the unconscious realms of the psyche in search of the archetypal structures that hold the key to immortality and authentic existence, while millions of average people starve or are killed because of public inaction and negligence. Action, it would seem, is what matters for the politician. He demands real world results, changes that are seen and that have a verifiable effect on the lives of average citizens. More than anything else, though, the politician, the man of the world, demands that we confront and destroy evil. He says of the mystics that they ignore all the terrible and unjust aspects of the world, that they pretend everything reduces to unity and love when it takes only eyes to see that it does not. The mystic can only respond by questioning the politician’s understanding of evil. While the politician relates to evil heroically as though it were an outside force with its own autonomous will and motives, the mystic sees it as a psychic manifestation of everything the self cannot accept about its own nature. It is true, the mystic will agree, that evil may appear to be unrelated to good, but this is because those who define themselves as good do so only because they have repressed their evil side. This repressed evil is projected by the unconscious onto anyone who opposes the will of what has consciously been deemed good. This psychic mechanism of repression and projection is the individual’s only recourse after they have identified themselves with goodness. The good is not good unless it battles evil; it must have an enemy. “Therefore,” says St. Paul, “I discover the principle that in my willing to do the good, the evil is with me” (Romans, 7:21). This coincidence of opposites is the only universal law of the understanding. In all our thought, whether abstract or concrete, it is never transgressed.
The Court of God
Even God has a dark side, but Christian theologians often point to the historical incarnation of Christ as God’s way of absolving evil and redeeming His[8] creation from darkness and sin. God is therefore said to remain pure, as only His Son is given the task of doing battle with the devil. We might think of God as the judge presiding over Jesus as the defendant arguing against Satan as prosecutor. We are the one on trial, the individual facing the judgment of God. This situation creates in us a feeling of intense self-reflection. After deeper contemplation, we may become aware that this is a trial as much about the nature of God as it is about our own. God has set up the courtroom and allowed the forces of good and evil their equal say. He would only do so because He has not yet decided upon the matter for Himself. As likenesses created in the image of God, our fate is also His fate. God is preparing only His own judgment-and is not this ability to judge oneself from God’s perspective what our own consciousness really amounts to? We speak candidly of our normal, everyday selves as “conscious,” but could it be that in so doing we are giving our profane selves too much credit? Self-reflection may be a better term for the action of the secular self, as it suggests something more akin to self-manipulation or self-control. As self-reflective beings, we observe parts of ourselves (such as our memories or knowledge) and employ them to solve specific problems. We function in the world as a self-reflecting ego by being aware of one thing at a time, by making compromises and weighing disparate options. Through all this, though, we never become aware of our own unconscious. Only a fully aware and conscious being can understand itself completely. But it does not look back upon a part of itself in order to change it so that it might function more efficiently. It looks back only to behold itself as itself, with no thought of utility or effecting change. It does so because what it sees is the perfection of imperfection. It recognizes all at once that existence is beautiful beyond comprehension precisely because it often seems so ugly. Do not be fooled by these apparent contradictions; the religious state of mind becomes sheer nonsense when the logical methods of philosophy are applied to it. An unmediated mystical state cannot occur until the knot of the concept-bound mind, obsessed with language and pulled tight by doubt, has been released into the pure and immediate openness of faith.
Who am I?
We might say, then, that the mystical experience occurs when God beholds itself as “I,” the formerly separate, sinful individual. This mystical state of consciousness is human-remembering-divinity or a rebinding of the finite with the infinite. “It is precisely a failure to remember,” says Ananda Coomaraswamy, “that drags down from the heights of the soul that which has walked with God and had some vision of the truths, but cannot retain it” (EIC, p. 77).
The suffering individual may now be cast in a new light. Rather than a helpless cog thrown into an uncaring world alongside other beings utterly alien to ourselves, we become God in disguise playing at being a part of His own created world. In all our seeming anguish, we are never anything but our own victims. The “I” who suffers is an illusion brought about by a God that wishes to forget Himself. For what else could an omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient God of love possibly want to do but suffer the exact fate of those He has created? The infinite implies all that is finite, as to be truly infinite means also to exist finitely, even if it is just for a time.
What, then, is the solution to the dilemma of the suffering individual? It is precisely to ask that most fundamental of religious questions: “Who am I?” I have asked the question repeatedly, one may say, and it has not yet brought me to God, only deeper into confusion and sin. We are reminded at this point that “the question is asked by one who in his ignorance does not even know what provided the occasion for his asking in this way” (PF, p. 9). The question may be re-posited, then, as: How are we to arrive at the dissolution of the dilemma of the suffering individual? In other words, how are we to come to realize that the occasion of the question itself created the problem? As William Blake has said, “The fool who persists in his folly will become wise” (MHH). Precisely by attempting the impossibility of coming to ourselves, of waking up once and for all, we realize that we “…cannot by any means do it [but] that IS it. That is the mighty self-abandonment that gives birth to the stars” (BT, 229). “That” is what the mystics know through unknowing, that “thou art that.”

Works Cited

1) Blake, William. The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. New York: Oxford University Press. 1975.
2) Cahn, Steven M. Ten Essential Texts in the Philosophy of Religion. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005.
3) Chaudhuri, Haridas. Evolution of Integral Consciousness. Wheaton, Ill.: Quest. 1977.
4) Harding, Sandra. Whose Science? Whose knowledge?: Thinking From Woman’s Lives. New York: Cornell University Press. 1991.
5) Kierkegaard, Soren. Trans. Hong, Howard V. and Hong, Edna H. The Sickness Unto Death. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1983.
6) Kierkegaard, Soren. Trans. Hong, Howard V. and Hong, Edna H. Philosophical Fragments and Johannes Climacus. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1985.
7) Merleau-Ponty, Maurice. Trans. Smith, Colin. Phenomenology of Perception. New York: Routledge. 1962.
8) Roheim, Geza. Gates of the Dream. New York: International University Press. 1953.
9) Russell, Bertrand. Religion and Science. New York: Oxford University Press. 1961.
10) Solomon, Robert C. Existentialism. 2nd Edition. New York: Oxford University Press. 2005.
11) Watts, Alan. Beyond Theology: The Art of Godmanship. New York: The World Publishing Co. 1967.
[1] The sacred is the holy. The holy is that which is whole, rather than fractured or partial.
[2] (At least any good modern philosopher). To have knowledge of absolutes, one must first absolutize knowledge. Such an absolution amounts to declaring everything to be conscious.
[3] Hollow is not synonymous with hole in this context because it refers to the middle space between something surrounding, rather than the purer emptiness suggested by Hegel’s “hole in being.” A hollow has an inside and an outside, while a hole implies only vacancy.
[4] Being is eternal and infinite. As eternity, it has no time within which to move. As infinity, it has no space through which to travel. Therefore, it is motionless.
[5] The atheist typically asserts that there is no truth, failing to notice their own contradiction.
[6] The list could go on indefinitely, the only qualification being that the tradition is non-dual. That is, the final and supreme truth for the tradition must be both all encompassing and completely ineffable. This assures that they lead to no specific finite dogmas, but remain fixed on the infinite and unknowable.
[7] Bacon: “For you have but to hound nature in her wanderings, and you will be able when you like to lead and drive her afterwards to the same place again. Neither ought a man to make scruple of entering and penetrating into those holes and corners when the inquisition of truth is his whole object” (WSWK, p. 43).
[8] The masculine personal pronoun used in this context is not at all necessary and might be better replaced with the androgynous “Thou.” However, the grammatical context makes this awkward, and so for aesthetic reasons I refer to God as “He.” Using “It” would further confuse the reader, turning God into an object when the author intends for Him to be confronted as a subject, or rather the subject.

Myth and Mentation

Belief is creation. Human beings cannot escape the relationship between the formative powers of their imagination and the world itself. Thought is reality.

Yes, we have science; we have response to thought. We can test our thoughts and gauge their efficacy. We can produce statistics and build models. But these responses are still thoughts, still assertions of value, still intentions of moral significance. We are still assigning value to some scale of measurement over another, choosing with no means logical a particular form of language to admire over all others. Even if this form is mathematical and therefore seems to transcend all human dialects, the value the numbers are assigned is subjective. That doesn’t mean its truth is tainted, it just means measurements of CO2 in the atmosphere only matter to people who care about the planet. Data is just empty digits until attention is paid to it, until its worth is assigned. Why do physicists toil over the validity of their equations? Because they are obsessed with eternity.

Science is not merely an objective description of a static world. Science plays an integral part in the ongoing unfolding of a world.

Thoughts are creative: human consciousness is a participant in reality, it is not a spectator. It does not observe a world from outside. It is involved, it changes what it sees merely by looking at it differently. The subject and the object are not two separate things. My subjectivity leaks out onto everything it perceives; it is impossible to see anything outside beyond its reach. Objects do not exist without subjects; things do not exist without perspectives. What is an atom without an eye to see it? The Earth has no phases/seasons without the Sun because time can only be witnessed in eternity.

YouTube

Video doesn’t afford us the same intensity of individuality that the printed word provides. Speaking aloud into the internet is emersion in the Other.
Writing affords an author time for reflection and debate. One can “catch their breath” before they pronounce the world, gather supplies before setting off to sea. Marshall Mcluhan said that “every media extension of man is an amputation.” Television removes imagination from the individual and offers it free to the masses. Print anchors the psychic ego to the paper; it creates grammars and logics to put the world to rights. It’s straight lines and consistency turn nature into a machine while the newly defined ego willingly consents to being but a cog. As long as it gets a page in the story, a place in history, however small, it is satisfied. As long as its vote is counted…

And what has YouTube amputated? Uploading videos to YouTube is making a confession to the superego. That means YouTube has supplanted religion as the sole source of the sacred. What was once prayer is now accomplished by staring into a tiny hole telling “whoever” about what you think. Someone is listening, but no one can do anything to help.

There is no enlightenment on YouTube, but there are millions of people looking for it. There is no silence on YouTube, but there are millions of people listening for it.
It is a mirror for the soul, but functions much like a hole. There is nothing to be gained from it, only much to be lost.

Does YouTube give every cog a voice? Or does it turn cogs into demigods?

Inside and Outside

Why does my mind matter more than my body? Why is it that it’s what’s inside that counts? Isn’t the shape and character of my face as much “me” as the trends and moods of my personality? Aren’t they each a symptom of the other? My personality is my reaction to the other faces I’ve come across. But I base my reactions on my own foundations. So a person’s idea of the world is never really their own because their personality is never really their own, as it’s just his reaction to other people’s behavior and expectations (to the collective karma). So a person’s idea of the world is never close to being concerned with any “actual world” that exists regardless of humanity and completely separate from it. Our ideas are always reactions to one another. We don’t care about the “actual world.” We care only about the world as we agree to it by reacting to one another’s spontaneous recreations of words and cultures past. We use a standardized alphabet to produce meaning by reassembly into various phonetic combinations. “I hear what you say” and “I understand what you mean” are not synonymous. I can hear what you say or read what you write without experiencing the image you are attempting to convey. I can just respond to the symbols with my own symbols, putting them in order like a game. Just a bunch of lines bent up by a mental blacksmith into swords we think defend us from the chaos of the universe. Only when you understand what I mean can you use the lines as a ladder with which you may climb up, or down, or through, or out of the boxed-in rationalities of your word-infested mind. Use this line to transcend this line. It is a reminder not to take these lines seriously; just listen to them and see where they take you. Don’t judge these words.

Originally posted Nov. 25th, 2006

Impersonal text for no one in particular

Talking out loud is tiring, it is inevitably personalizing. If I want to stick to impersonality,
it pays to write. Remaining faceless avoids the glare.

Spontaneously talking into a camera to post your face on the Internet is pornographic. It is pop-thought, public nudity, mass consciousness. It is confronting the superego and shouting spells at him hoping he will understand you. Why do I care, though? Did Jesus Christ beg His Father for forgiveness? No, He already knew His Father loved Him.

Yeah, it’s time to talk about God. You can only become an atheist by talking a lot about Him.

Is it fair to say science has not replaced God, just put him in the background, made him a little more unconscious? The monotheistic view is basically the political view, after all, the view of law and order, of higher and lower causes and their effects as measured through space and time. Those men who still think God lives in the sky wear a church robe, those who think He lives in the dirt wear a lab coat. But both believe in God, in the Law. Both are priests. Both are initiates. Both understand, or at least have access to, the hidden law. Whether it was handed down from above or is toiled over in the mud, the law is in charge!

As an atheist, I’m still living in my father’s dream.

I’m trying to talk the superego into loving me, trying to get me to accept him; but behind the scenes it’s also him trying to accept me. My dad is lying asleep on his bed dreaming about what life should be like for me, his unconscious avatar.

I’ve had glimpses of wholeness (emptiness) and love, but the Sun always rises in the morning (the Moon always sets at night). The contrast returns. Vision blurs, time becomes tangled, I am strung up: a puppet with a master, a gear in a machine, nothing but a ghost in my father’s memory of the future (reflection of the past).

My person (my ego) is talking about my biological father. The soul is talking about God.

This could be more pleading with God to let me into heaven, or it could be a continual emptying of karma into infinity. Either a massage for the ego, or a burning bush for the soul.

Am I trying to polish a mirror or open a wormhole?

Am I free to decide?

If I say yes, am I then determined to be free, or also free not to be? That’s what throws me off with this freedom v. determinism game. It seems that I am so free that I can choose determinism. I can decide to be predetermined. Plenty of people have convinced themselves of this, so I’m inclined to believe it takes the same kind of convincing to believe otherwise. There is a limited amount of evidence on each side, so choosing one requires a great deal of self-talk, of arguing with God, of trying to convince the law of your innocence while defending yourself from the guilt-producing freedom of your instincts.

What if neither convincingly pulls Humpty over one-way or the other, and he sits comfortably on the wall avoiding the fall into pieces?

If I tip one way and I am free, I forget I am determined, that my mind needs a body like light needs darkness, that without a pretext there is nothing to compel me to act, and I fall into pieces. Experience becomes split in two.

If I tip the other way and I am determined, I forget I am free to declare so, I think other than I say, and I fall into pieces. My mind has free thoughts but speaks determined words, and their friction ignites an unconscious.

How to avoid the fall? We can’t just not pick a side… we have to see that picking is impossible. But knowing (gnosis) what “impossible” means is a bit like untying an inter-dimensional knot. You need arms in both dimensions at once.

In the Gospel of Thomas, Jesus says: “Split the stick, you will find me there”.

This reminds me of the Trinity. The Father and the Holy Ghost are God and Man, respectively. Jesus is the God-Man. He ties the dualism together completing the loop.

To TheModernMystic (YouTube)

TheModernMystic @ YouTube.com

Nick,

the gap has been leaped. 1st person and 3rd person are equally illusory. No “I” and no “it”. There is no single observer just like there is no single observed. In fact, there is no observer or observed at all, they are not two.

Thou art That.

I am It. No, not Matthew is It. “I” mean all “I”s, whatever the gap between Matthew and his experience is, that which every named person alive experiences, is It.

So have I leapt the gap, or has the river between the two sides dried up?

Is it that I walked across the gap which was a mirage, or is it rather that there is no time to go across at all?

What do we mean by “now”? Isn’t it the same thing we mean by “I”? We mean this, right here, right now that “I” experience. But if there is no “I” to experience any “now”,or rather if that stopping to say “now”, or to remember “time”, is itself what creates that experience of “I”, then, well, the gap has no time to be leapt.

Hm. Well strange thing is I now have no idea what has happened to the gap. I can still talk about what it supposedly is all day (and night), but i haven’t been able to pin it down with that technique quite yet. It isn’t one of the two poles that one uses to “make sense” whenever one attempts to describe something they’ve experienced by talking about it. It isn’t “I” or “It” that is really real, it isn’t mind or matter that ultimately decides our fate (or freedom). Those are all figures of speech.

The question I have been poorly trying to articulate up until now is this:

How can there be a describer separate from what is described?

Whenever we open our mouths and start vibrating words into intelligence (into rational sense that others agree with), it is absolutely necessary that “I”s and “It”s exist. Otherwise there is simply nothing to talk about, or at least nothing that would “make sense”.

“Sense,” or consciousness, is the appearance of dualism. The illusion of separateness. Without separateness, there is no one who talks and no one to talk to, there is no world to be sounded or word to be written.

Think about it: If you are not separate from the words you’re reading, you couldn’t possibly be able to understand them. The fact that you do “understand” them is purely an illusion, because WHO could it possibly be that is “understanding” anything? From what perspective does this “recognition” or “representation” occur from? Sure, it could be that we are just unconsciously trained to put phonemes and letters together to form coherent responses to the utterances we take in from outside, “coherence” being judged by the amount of emotional reward we receive from others while chatting.

But surely it doesn’t seem this way. Surely it seems like we really do KNOW what these words mean, we really are SURE (we directly “sense” it) what they are.

This assurance is an illusion. But the illusion is real, it occurs. Separateness exists when we speak, when we attempt to communicate (or think) using language. And language is not just English or French or German or Mandarin. Language is bird song. Language is gestural. Language is genetic. Language is atomic. Language amounts to the only real “difference” even between light and dark. But difference creates “sense”. Without dualism there is no meaning to anything, there is no leverage from which to lift a temporary “perspective of a world” (an “I” experiencing an “It”) out of the original eternal oneness.

But blah blah blah, that is not it either.

The gap is God, or God is in the gaps.

The gap is all there is, maybe that’s it.

The cloud of unknowing, that is where and what and when “we” are.

We exist nowhere as no one in no time.

But you must have understood those words I just used to describe what we are and felt that they had meaning… how does that happen?

Oh, I’m at it again.

The gap is God.

What do you think about this? Or rather, do you agree that you could not possibly think anything about it because YOU ARE IT. you can not move around about it, take a stance from beyond it, view it from outside and pronounce objectively that you’ve discovered the one true description of its essence.

Are you it? Is this all?

“Every now and then when `me thing` is being played with by the brain, `me thing` does something funny, loving or anything positive – it is `seen`, that being, just `me thing`, does not stop the fun and love and other positives.
Slowly one can learn to drop the `me-individual-ego-important-special-ness` and be more of `just a cog in a mega machine`.”

So is it that we shouldn’t think “we” are special, or that there is no “I” or anyone who could possibly be labeled special?

Humility is just as silly as hubris at the end of the day, isn’t it? They are both equally impossible.

They are emotions maybe. But who “has” them?

Is that feeling of there being a “haver” of feelings what goes away when we focus in on them?

Focus in on boredom and it disappears! Or does the focuser disappear?

“Individuals would have to be reprogrammed to see themselves as, not individuals, but as `things`.
It is a hard first step, but it does not need to be jumped up all at once.”

Programming scares me. I think the computer metaphor carries an illogical stowaway, or rather an implicit metaphysic involving a “receiver” of “code”, or an “I” that has “experiences”. Sure, we can describe everything a computer is by listing inputs and outputs (code) but that is not what the computer actually does. It actually transforms the consciousness of the humans who use it. Humans complete the loop that allows computers to be processors of “information”, rather than just empty meaningless digits.

Ah, what’t the point? I’m saying we are not code readers. We can’t be! Because there is no reader of any code! There is “code reading”, that I think I can safely say. But there is no one who reads code, and no code that is read by someone.

So we are not code readers. Does that mean we’re something more special? No. It’s all special. I and It. All of it, including “you” and “me”. It is all unique. Even more unique than one of a kind. It is not a kind among other kinds. It simply is what there is, and there is only one.

But so what? If we can’t reprogram people (because people aren’t people), then what do we do? If we can’t do anything because we don’t exist as free wills inside the body, or as mini-Sisyphuses who push around boulders, then what are we worried about? Or rather, who is it that is worried?

Let’s focus in on the worry.

Hmm… yes there is plenty of worrying going on. But who is worried? And who are they worried about?

If we’re going to talk about reprogramming people, we better start talking about God (ie, the programmer). There is no other voice that could undo human programming and replace it with angel programming.

But I’d rather not get into that discussion. Christianity has already got it wrapped up nice and tight, in knots as a matter of fact.

So I am suggesting that the computer metaphors go the way of the Jesus metaphors. And maybe also that the desire to save the world is impossible. It’s not that it can’t be done. It’s that there is no one to do it, no one to have it done to.

Or its already saved, if you don’t might the weight of the “specialness” this might imply. It’s probably much lighter if we don’t talk about it at all.

Ego trying to transcend Ego

Oh, I am dizzy from the never ending torment of chasing my own tail around and around and around. I feel deflated, not for any particular reason, but more so because I need a reason not to be.

Why spirituality? Why demand that existence be meaningful? Because it just feels so much better that way! For who? For me!

Yes, this is a self-emptying textual gesture. I am trying to get it all out on the table, trying to describe exactly what it is that has been eating me from the inside out. Will naming the monster remove it from my mind?

There are so many desires buzzing around in there (my mind)… I don’t even know which one to focus on first. I desire a more fulfilling social life. I desire a deep relationship with a significant other; I want to fall in love. I desire a clear career path, something I can devote my time and energy to without doubting myself, without second guessing my commitment to the cause. I desire real meaning, something I am growing increasingly unable to distill from the cloudy shit storm raging around me. And I’m not blaming others, not saying everyone else is the problem. I’m saying the world is growing increasingly unreal. It becomes harder every day to believe anything. It all seems to disappoint after further investigation. Endless surfaces, shiny packagings offering total fulfillment. But then you unwrap them and nothing is inside. Just more emptiness.

I’ve reached a point where I feel like I’ve heard it all before. I want help, yet I know I can only help myself. What a conundrum.

I could easily write another spiritual poem or feel good declaration of the ongoing awakening of consciousness, but it’d be a cover up, another fancy wrapper around a hollow core.

The core is hollow, there is no ego here. Suffering is an illusion created by attachment to something that doesn’t exist. Yes, I’ve read it all in many different words, written it all in many more. But still the experience of life does not seem to change. Time for a new approach? I’m open to suggestions.