• Dynamic Tension

    by  • March 4, 2013 • Everything Else • 17 Comments

    Although I spend a lot of time feeling powerless, I have more undivided, informed, concentrated attention on the affairs of the world than almost anybody. Because I’m self-funded (i.e. usually broke) and self-directed, I get to set my own agendas. There are very few actors with this kind of freedom.

    It also means that I can’t do anything without your help. Every hexayurt built builds another hexayurt, and makes the next two or four more likely. Every person using Simple Critical Infrastructure Maps on their own problems makes that language more widely spread. I spread my solutions to the issues by education, and prefer to educate by helping people to master crafts (building, mapping) than teaching abstract, theoretical knowledge. Even better, people pick up these tools, spin them round, say “yes, but you know…” and we get quaddomes, H13s and the new SCIM design language. These approaches to sharing knowledge and cooperating are not approaches that necessarily have deep theory behind them. These are aesthetic, rather than rationally optimized choices. And, in some small way, they work.

    The how is essentially improvisational. The why is very different: I do what I do because I believe it to be objectively necessary. I believe it to be necessary for three reasons:

    1. There’s a rational case to be made that the future health of the planet and survival of humanity is at substantial risk
    2. I had a very odd Monty Pythonesque religious vision in which some notional swamis tried to get anybody who would listen to help them save the world so that they wouldn’t have to do the end-of-planet form-filling paperwork (I shit you not)
    3. I keep washing up in weird situations where I can actually do something useful

    Somebody once told me not to worry – that at this level of concern, the nature of life on earth was self-correcting. That not only was this aspect of life, the existential struggle for the future, not something I needed to worry about, it was something nobody needed to worry about – an ego-driven dead end. Roughly, perhaps, equivalent to the Asuric realms of Hindu mythology.

    I thought about this for a long time. Was it possible that I was simply caught up in a long, delusional power trip?

    I might have spent a year wondering about it off-and-on, prying the truth out of the question. You need to be a pretty high player to ask me a question about my spirituality which takes me a year to answer, so I’m grateful for this particular quandary. I finally solved it a few weeks ago.

    “If it is self-correcting, it’s self-correcting with unacceptable catastrophic crashes in human quality of life.” Even if the system as a whole may self-correct (after all, we seem to get out of trouble again and again and again as a species!) the hell-on-earth we often create along the way is unacceptable. Consider the utter holocausts in South America, they may be the best single example of so much pain for nothing-but-gold-and-potatoes.

    So I remain in the game, attempting to manipulate human destiny to keep us out of hell and the mass grave.


    A lot of the work needs an infinite vantage point, like a vanishing point in perspective drawing. Without it, the threats are simply overwhelming imponderables, beyond all comprehension. Almost nobody spends their life fighting the infinite darkness without some conception of the infinite light, but it doesn’t seem to matter much whether it’s Humanity’s Destiny in Space, a visit from Space Aliens, a Star Trek like faith in Liberalism as manifest destiny, or some modernized, weaponized form of the Old Religion. I just don’t meet players without something even if the poor miserable bastards are clinging on to some mutated form of Christianity, theology popping rivets from the strain as they try to justify saving a world that their God will later hideously destroy. Even in the most unlikely places, human dignity wins out.

    I have come to the conclusion that there is no hope for humanity or our world if we do not violently tear down the old myths and preconceptions which plague our species with demon gods and imaginary karmic enslavement.

    The New Atheists are an obnoxious lot: they are right, in that these things do not exist, but in the Alan Moore sense, they are all-powerful masters of the human imagination.

    But the New Atheists lack wonder, and so cannot generate the infinite reference point which empowers people to act far above the ordinary human conception of limits. We cannot forego passion for reason and survive; we are not that far from the animals we issued from.

    What we need to do is yank people out of their context, like magnetized iron filings, and let each align to their own identity with the infinite. The form, as far as I can tell, matters very little. Then we simply need to get to work, gutting the old mythologies as fast as we can, and rebuilding something that works.

    The reason I think this is necessary is very simple: there are very few effective agents of change without some kind of internal spiritual gyroscope. Most of them are flying by the seat of their pants, and assume that all versions of the infinite at the same when correctly understood – that the infinite is a single point. This is a sort of folk religion of the new age, “it all converges.”

    But in truth one can place that infinite reference point anywhere – one, two or three point perspective – with very little functional distinction in results. Yes, indeed, wherever you put the perspective points, it looks like the lines all converge – that’s why they call it perspective. But the points are not in the same place.

    You can draw the world in perspective. That you have in common with others who have discovered the infinite somewhere, in love, in wonder or in beauty. But not every point of perspective is identical. This error must be expunged for us to find true common spiritual ground. There is convergence, but not because things are the same.

    It’s a bit like GPS – it doesn’t matter which satellites you are locking on to, you can navigate. You have the infinite, you get perspective.

    The belief systems that people cook up around their pet infinity do not have to be fungible, they just have to provide a wide-enough frame of reference not to fry like a bug on the magnitude of the task at hand. Even bloody dialectical materialism might do in a pinch, although god help us if it ever catches on widely.

    We are fucked without lighthouses. When our challenges were about large scale social organization, on the model of kingdoms and then nations, centralized authoritarian bureaucracies were enough. Now we’re a long, long way beyond that model – in less than a lifetime of years we’ve been propelled into an entirely different universe, starting with nuclear weapons and living, right now, through climate and heading into nanobio and the great unknowns of our high tech future. Our old lighthouses are failing: the Church is the world’s largest (?) paedophile ring. America is raising a generation for whom America has always been the world’s great fascist power, no recollection of their brave stand against the Nazis and the Soviets will go undiminished. Yet we still march to the beat of these memes.

    You need to pry the old crap out of your own head. You can’t really get moving when the old crap is in there: you see the world through dead eyes.

    Everything in western culture, and increasingly global culture, dead-ends in Capitalism, Colonialism and Christianity. Everybody’s language and mindset have been shaped by these forces, usually to make the victims completely invisible.

    Witness the trouble Occupy has developing a global politics: they’re so attached to the idea of being The Oppressed they can’t even see the Chinese and the Africans. The fixity of ideas is on all sides.

    You can’t build a coherent politics without a coherent geography. Seven billion people, headed for at least nine. Global warming, global ageing. You draw that map, and the bleating of nation state level political actors is like a brass band of chimpanzees.

    They’re not even wrong.

    They’re right in a way which is so limited it completely destroys our ability to survive.

    What do you mean we can’t have global agreements on climate because angry chimps with nuclear weapons say they want to keep the SUV viable?

    I’m not saying you should just pretend these things aren’t there. What I am saying is feel free to stop believing in them.

    It’s much easier to just saw off the entire branch, than to go leaf-by-leaf cataloguing errors.

    You must rebuild your politics from scratch pretending you are a citizen of a fair world government oppressed by a bunch of imposters trying to make you believe in various nation states. These liars and thieves conspire to hide the true geography and true history of the world behind farcical distractions and petty affrays – sports with terrible death-tolls – and all trace of the real news is buried or marginalized in the egg-head sections of the broadsheet papers.

    You just tear up the medieval map in your head, and replace it with a real one.

    Buy a globe. Teach yourself to think on it. Put the physical object beside your computer, put stories from the news on maps.

    Strafe the terrain in Google Maps.

    Every time somebody quotes a statistic, put it on a reference frame against global averages. Then consider it against means, not averages.

    It doesn’t matter where you cut the branch. You cut once. The easiest place is geography and history, but you can do it anywhere: cosmology, religion, philosophy, even politics.

    But once you shove the nation state, and all that went with it, out of the window of your mind as a medieval fantasy which now constrains us as much as religion once did, you can start to find your way.

    We have to get to climate in time, and nanobio shortly thereafter. We may have to crush a lot of dreams on the way. But let’s start with the fantasies and illusions of the past: nothing to lose there at all.

    Once you start to deal with the states deprived of all legitimacy, as historical mafias with completely control over given turfs, we can admit we might need those mafias to play ball in the short term to get anything done.

    But never again do we fall under the spell called politics.

    flattr this!


    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


    17 Responses to Dynamic Tension

    1. Francis Irving
      March 5, 2013 at 2:17 am

      This is certainly how I feel emotionally these days – about the news, about the blandness and pointlessness of most mainstream conversations.

      I retreat into tech in the vague hope of causing enough further disruption, in this storm’s eye we live in.

      I’m not so sure the nation state per se is the thing to attack… It’s more everyone’s cultural attitude to the situation we’re in. Partly framed by the nation state – just as much framed by consumerism, money, socialism – many of the things we like and enjoy about the world.

      Either way, “feel free to stop believing in them”.

    2. March 5, 2013 at 3:44 am

      Amen to this!

    3. March 5, 2013 at 9:21 am

      Welcome back, sir! :)

      The New Atheists are an obnoxious lot: they are right, in that these things do not exist, but in the Alan Moore sense, they are all-powerful masters of the human imagination.

      But the New Atheists lack wonder, and so cannot generate the infinite reference point which empowers people to act far above the ordinary human conception of limits. We cannot forego passion for reason and survive;

      This, this is brilliant, but it did also make me think of Neil Degrasse Tyson. When you write about the New Atheists, my mind goes to the Horsemen (Hitchensx2, Dawkins, etc.) But there’s also Tyson, who is equipped to find, and then speak of, wonder in physical infinity which inspires passion from reason.

    4. March 5, 2013 at 11:29 am

      Yes, the Tyson / Sagan thread is completely different from the New Atheism in my mind. They’ve got their infinite reference point (time & space) and are perfectly comfortable with the human need for wonder – not as credulity and the seedbed of stupid beliefs, but the core of what makes us great explorers and discoverers. In many ways I think they’re in the same broad emotional territory as the Deists, even if they don’t posit a god of any kind at all.

      The separation between the emotional range and the philosophy is really important, and not well mapped!

    5. Luke Devlin
      March 7, 2013 at 4:02 am

      mostly I’m on board with this. However, the concern when ‘gutting old mythologies’ and gettiing rid of ‘old crap’ is that it tends to send us into mass graves, not keep us out of them as you suggest.


      I know you’re influenced by Thelema on this and there was a thoughtful recent post on this worth reading which suggests the Book of the Law was an anarcho-fascist manifesto:


      The truth is, in many ways this describes the world we live in, although not as Crowley intended.

      I think the real ‘dynamic tension’, unless you’re getting sweaty with Charles Atlas on the beach, is holding the paradox between a hermeneutic of continuity and a hermeneutic of rupture.

      Some things, ideas or structures clearly don’t have a right to exist and should be dismantled immediately before more damage is done: others are like Chesterton’s Fence- https://www.prolific.com/qwiki.cgi?mode=previewSynd&uuid=F6YWS47JRS2LQ49WKXU7W3JVB4QT – and should be left in situ until we know what to do with them. The trick is the discernment and insight needed to know which is which. It doesn’t help when a tradition that can produce both Hélder Câmara and Torquemada is so easily dismissed.

    6. nobody
      March 7, 2013 at 4:37 am

      Regarding the common ground: I haven’t heard of a single belief system that does not at least implicitly assume that we exist at present. From this follows another commonality: inconsistency (a.k.a. everything can happen, everything from nothing, existence of an all-powerful being, …), because every explanation of our existence seems to fail somewhere.


      To elaborate…

      Assuming the existence of a being {N=2} that creates the world in which we eventually come alive leaves open how that being came into existence. Explaining the existence of that being {N=3} leads to infinite regress, requiring an infinite chain of creations. (The infinite chain can also be provided by a loop which, while viewed from outside is finite, when viewed from inside seems infinite; but circular reasoning fails as well.)

      Assuming the existence of the world {N=1} (like science does) leaves open how that came into being. Physics does provide theories to guesstimate what happened back until a split-second after the “big bang”, but it cannot (yet?) say anything about the moment before that. While I hope that physicists will build better and better theories, the current big bang model is just the same old everything-from-nothing inconsistency repacked, and it’s unlikely that physics will ever find a better theory without a similar defect. (You can always add another layer, we’ll never be able to prove that we’ve reached the last one.)

      Noticing the “bad induction” (pushing the thing to prove outside layer by layer) and, by Occam’s Razor, reducing one further – assuming the existence of self {N=0} (“it is all me”) – falls prey to Gödel, as “any system that can prove its own consistency is inconsistent”. You can throw all kinds of logical trickery at it to try to keep existence and consistency apart, but you won’t get far until you see it’s back. (In classical logic (P \/ ¬P), you as a system are either consistent or inconsistent. If you are consistent, then Gödel sez you’re inconsistent, meaning you’re inconsistent either way.)


      There you have it. If you assume that you exist, it breaks. Heck, if you assume that *anything* exists, it breaks.

      This cannot possibly exist, and yet… we refuse to stop believing.

      Common ground: We WANT to exist! (Even though some of us might claim the opposite…)

      So let’s keep the show going, shall we?

    7. March 7, 2013 at 9:50 am

      Luke, Thelema’s a big issue.

      My realization that I could no longer show polite tolerance for Desert Monotheisms came from a simple realization: people keep trying to create hell on earth. I started thinking about the theology of hell, about where it comes from, and slowly it dawns on me… Greek hells-proper, torture-places of the gods, have about six residents – Sisyphus, Tantalus, Prometheus etc.

      How did something that was meted out for the rarest of transgressions become the common fate of everybody up to and including Mahatma Gandhi? I started asking Jesus proclaimers on the streets what happened to Gandhi when he died.

      “Oh, he’s in hell mate.”

      Then it dawned on me. “What do you think he’s doing in hell?”

      They’d say “Oh, suffering terribly, being tortured by demons.”

      And I’d say “No, he’s organizing non-violent non-cooperation – against your god.”

      Billions of people who adhere to these demonolotrous traditions believe that it is right and proper that their demon-god maintains an infinite torture farm called Hell as the final end of much of its creation. While its possible to claim that hell is a bit embellished in mainstream Christian thinking, no such ambiguity is possible with Islam, the Koran is very definite about all the torture – and they have much the same faith in the return of Jesus that Christians do.

      Christianity is evil. To discuss the good bits of it is like discussing the good bits of Nazism. “Great uniforms, and there was that Oskar Schindler guy!” Every good thing in it simply camouflages and congeals the utter horror of people willingly cooperating and worshipping torture gods. That it is acceptable to be Christian or Muslim in public, while proclaiming such a theology of pure hate and utter horror… both are hate cults who’s theology clearly places Gandhi and the like in hell. It’s what they threaten me with too. They can fuck right off.

      The Covenant of Abraham is a bargain with a demon: the service of me and my first-born, and all of my issue until the end of ages, in return for being your chosen, oh demon-god YHVH.

      Once you understand that, it all makes sense. The purpose of the monotheisms is to feed hell, both in the imagination of humans, and in their actions on earth and towards each-other.. It explains the nodding acceptance of a priesthood who’s true sacrament appears to be the rape of children. It cuts right to the core: religions which threaten hell are religions run by the demons of the mind.

      Now, along comes Thelema. Crowley’s rendition of thelema is bonkers. There’s a few things wrong with it, but the core issues are fourfold.

      1) He doesn’t understand tantra, because he never had a guru. All the tantric traditions I’m aware of insist on the centrality of the guru, and there are good technical reasons for it. As a result, the technical gubbins of tantra in thelema are (at least to my eye) simply wrong, and the resulting second-order errors pervade the entire system.

      2) He’s not very clear on who he’s dealing with. You can get 90% of the way very simply: Thelema is Anarchism for Pharaohs. All that “slaves shall serve” stuff is a time-out-of-time spiritual force instructing somebody that it, at the time, believes to be a Pharaoh or at least within reach of such a throne. But time has blown it all to dust.

      3) Thelema is simply a tantra for space. By some genius, and give the devil his due, Crowley nails the idea that once you get into space, the Great Goddess is not seen as the Earth, but as the infinite expanse of stars, and the Suns become astonishingly important as sources of life. That’s completely realized in the work, and hopefully will be easy for people to see once a fair number of us have been into orbit. To sacralize the journey to the stars is a good idea, although we’d be dumb to bring our old gods with us – even those clinging to thelema.

      4) Crowley himself doesn’t do half of what he’s told. He’s a lousy prophet, and gets shoved to the side pretty fast. Jack Parsons does a lot better: invents the solid rocket motor which we used, right up until the end of the space shuttle, to get things to space. God knows what would have happened if he had lived.

      At the end of things, belief is the problem, not the solution. Faith is the problem, not the solution. A faith in Thelema, or in Hinduism, soon enough brings the same blindness and bigotry that I’m decrying in Christianity and Islam.

      We have science to explore the external world, by degrees. We have meditation and similar techniques to explore the internal world, by degrees. We have a very valid human tradition of enlightenment which re-asserts itself everywhere, usually at the edges, and frequently persecuted.

      The speed with which we can abandon medievalism directly relates to our ability to survive. Monotheism is the heart and soul of the conflicts of the 21st century, and it cannot die soon enough for my taste. I don’t much care what replaces it, as long as it leaves the people free. I’d rather it wasn’t new age crap or folk superstition, but damn near anything would be better than every sodding President swearing fealty to a religious belief system which makes God into a demon, and torture into an expression of His Love.

    8. Luke
      March 7, 2013 at 9:36 pm

      What you’re describing is one current of Christian theology: a major one, and as you point out, that of the deranged street preachers- and a good part of the evangelical wing too, to be fair. It’s certainly there, but to reduce the whole tradition- including the contemplative tradition which produced several outstanding enlightened mystics- to a glib ‘Christianity is evil’ is beneath you.

      I can fully understand why, though, given the destruction and horror that the demonic theology you describe has wrought on the world, and the personal encounters with some of its unsavoury exponents that you describe. Fair enough. I won’t argue with that and sometimes some wrathful righteous anger is justitifed at such spiritual abuse.

      I’m suggesting that there are several other currents there which have just as much claim to be central to the tradition as the one you describe. The idea that hell claims and apocalyptic theology has to be taken literally as core to the tradition is best left to philistines like Dawkins. You can’t say ‘Thelema is a big issue’ yet reduce Christianity to a trivial caricature, although I’ll stand right with you in critiquing the particular variant you’ve identified. You would hate if a Eurocentric Orientalist told you what ‘Hinduism’ was.

      There’s arseholes everywhere.

      You might find the work of the Hindu-Catholic Indo-Spanish mystic theologian Raimon Panikkar interesting in reconciling the kind of contemplative tradition I’m talking about with the worldview you find more useful, especially his mindblowing ‘Cosmotheandric’ stuff http://www.raimon-panikkar.org/english/gloss-cosmotheandric.html

      Or read Julian of Norwich, the Cloud of Unknowing or the Desert Fathers and tell me that what they’re experiencing isn’t as profound as Ramana or the Naths.

      Or look at the Catholic Worker worldwide network of radical anarcho-Christians providing food and shelter and resisting war, or Emmaus, or L’Arche and you see a transforming vision that’s not a million miles away from the Ananda Marga.

      Not to mention the ecotheologies that can help inform the kind of future we’re looking to create. To deny this stuff exists, or suggest it’s not ‘real Christianity’ is not only inaccurate but risks alienating real allies- although the majority of notional Christians don’t have a clue about their own faith. Frankly we’re going to be looking at a tiny rump Christianity in the rich minority world soon enough anyway.

      Looks like we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one.

      Vinay for Pope!

    9. March 7, 2013 at 11:04 pm

      There were good people in every evil regime that has ever existed. The presence of good people does not make an evil “not an evil” it simply affirms that good people continue to be good in evil settings.

      If there is a hell, then the Christian god is evil.

      If there is no hell, nobody need care if the Christian god exists – it’s an aesthetic preference.

      The reason Christian theology is so complicated is to try and mask the essential evil of the tradition in complexity. Omnipotent, Omniscient and Omnibenevolent is irresolvable within that framework because the obvious answer (“god’s an asshole”) is ruled inadmissible from day one.

      But you put that back on the table, and oh-my-how the Bible resolves into a simple tale of demon worship and deception, as a band of cruel spirits make humanity tie itself in knots trying to understand their goodness, slaughtering tribes and cities, dragging the chosen through enslavement and holocaust, diving man against man, torturing, raping and, at every turn, the question “why?” Why the snake in the garden, why Job, why the rape of the virgins in Sodom, why any of it?

      “Because god is an asshole.”

      The good humans in Christianity are there in spite of the religion, not because of it. To ascribe their goodness to Christianity, rather than some essential quality of being which has survived Christianity, is not wise, in my opinion.

      Maoists can claim that Maoism pulled more people out of poverty than any other political system in history, and that the people who starved or were killed in gulags where victims of a general agricultural failure or criminals who were being punished under reasonable law. They can claim that Mao’s reign, even in the worst parts, still have many, many wonderful people doing wonderful work caring for the poor and helping them out of poverty.

      It sounds about as reasonable as your defence of Christianity. If you think that’s a fair way to judge large movements, by all means, apply that standard. I prefer to look where the bodies are buried, where possible, and look at the potential wasted, rather than what light survived the darkness.

    10. Luke Devlin
      March 7, 2013 at 11:35 pm

      Again, I dispute that the theology you describe is definitively Christian. Yes, the Old Testament can be read in those terms among others, although not the Gospels. Rene Girard goes much further than you do regarding the Hebrew scriptures but frames it in a different and I think, much more useful way as a study in scapegoating and mimetic desire in a ‘text in travail’


      A world of scared people hurting each other in ignorance is pretty much what we had then, and it’s pretty much what we’ve got now.

      Yes, your Maoist comparison is appropriate, but so would a comparison be with every social system, ideology or movement in which enough wounded suffering people, people in maya/samsara/’the world’, show up for it to enact its desires in the world: almost without exception. This to me reflects something of the human tragedy, the brokeness of us all (that stuff about original sin isn’t too far off the mark after all, as Jung understood).

      I don’t want an an unquestioning adherence to tradition or authority, but I don’t want Year Zero either.

      “If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”
      ― Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, The Gulag Archipelago 1918-1956

    11. March 7, 2013 at 11:56 pm

      The Christians, in bulk, threaten me and mine with eternal torture.

      You support them.

      When the gun is pointed at you, the colours are so clear.

    12. March 8, 2013 at 12:02 am

      And I don’t mean that in a pat way. The Jesus Army and I had a run in a while back, in Trafalgar Square.

      I ask them, as I always do, what happened to Gandhi when he died. Hell, very definitely Hell, no doubt about it.

      So I told them, “well, in that case, your God and your Jesus are my enemies.”

      They were shocked.

      “If the Romans could kill him 2000 years ago, I see no reason the Hindus should not be able to kill him if he returns in our time.”

      The look of horror was satisfying. For them to understand that their God was our enemy, and as such, to be destroyed.

      As I said before, if there’s no hell, I have no need for an opinion on Jesus. If there is a hell, the Christian god is a demon. It’s either irrelevant, or evil.

      The obsessive clinging to this tradition is one of the world’s most unfortunate fates. We’d all be better off if Christianity went the way of Mithraism and all the other dead faiths with their dubious gods. People can find stuff to like about it, certainly, but what’s good in it comes from humans. The theology itself is obscene, the bible filled with horrific crimes committed by god and his friends, and…

      Why, with so many other, nicer, better religions with less psychopathic gods, why care about that one?

      God is an asshole. Pick another.

    13. Luke Devlin
      March 8, 2013 at 1:23 am

      If it comes down to that kind of Bushism- you’re either with us or against us- I have to walk away.

      [The Jesus Army are the most marginal cranks you could have recruited to your argument. Funky colourful jackets they have though: very camp.]

    14. March 8, 2013 at 10:29 am

      If I judge the God of the Bible by his deeds, as a figure exerting spiritual and political influence on the world through, for example, the requirement of US Presidents to profess Christian faith to be electable, I have to conclude that the God of the Bible is a bad being.

      I’ve seen good gods. Beside them, the God of the Bible is clearly a demon. This is not in the abstract sense of some spent mythical force like, I dunno, some old Sumerian beast preserved under glass and rolled out for horror movies, but in the very real sense of “a bad idea that makes the world worse because people confuse the idea with reality.” We all suffer because people keep the absurdity alive.

      You’re a smart guy. Don’t confuse the good parts of Christianity (some of the people) with the bad parts (the god and its ways.) Abandon the god, keep the people. The good parts do not stop being good because you admit that the entity that inspired the whole thing is a horror.

    15. Richard
      March 9, 2013 at 4:58 pm

      I love the intellectual arguments described above when in actual fact the whole argument regarding religion in general can be expressed in two words” TOTAL BOLLOCKS”

    16. nobody
      March 13, 2013 at 10:26 pm

      Richard, it seems you didn’t get what this is about:

      *All* models fail, once you go too far out – _including_ science.

      (Read that again. Got it?)

      An example: Newtonian physics / classical mechanics is clearly wrong, i.e. inexact / giving wrong predictions. It fails, once things become too fast, or once things become too small. You can do experiments and see it fail. We still keep using it where the fault is small enough (which is >99.9% of real life). Relativity fails at the quantum scale, quantum physics fail in the large. There is no consistent unified model (yet). (And if you’re honest, both relativity and quantum physics seem pretty crazy until you get used to the ideas.)

      Anyway, my stance on this: Any model that helps make working decisions in some situations is useful, no matter how broken or weird it may seem otherwise.

      As long as you’re just asking “What am I?” or “How does that thing work?”, science gives wonderful answers (or at least it’s likely that it will eventually). If you start asking “Why am I?” and keep going “And why do mommy and daddy exist?”, “And why…” (just like a child), science can give you a rough outline back to the big bang and then it’s just “lol, no idea”. (As you’ve seen above, when looking at the whole, even logic fails – so don’t expect a normative answer any time soon. :-P ) Still, that does not invalidate the question (and it doesn’t invalidate science either.)

      Now, you can stop there – it’s just a question after all, it doesn’t matter in reality – or you keep going and wind up with new ideas, new models. You can also look the other way, into the far future – utopias, hopes and dreams of immortality, interstellar travel, … and dystopias, horror and death in a multitude of ways. Maybe look even further, to the heat death of the universe (everything ends.) Or look at the moment, experience the beauty of it, the totality. Or go meta, look at what all these have in common, or…

      It doesn’t matter where you look, if you dig deep enough, you’re pretty much guaranteed to wind up with interesting models. (I got my first truly mind-blowing ones from logic, now they just keep popping up all over the place.) Still, all of them fail in one place or another.

      Just look at academia high up in their ivory tower (that’s including myself), at people in that endless work-eat-buy cycle (same here), people having first world problems (yup), people chasing dreams and neglecting the present (‘smee again…), people starting to laugh uncontrollably when they hear the word “tapioca” (tapioooca! …you get the idea?) Everything and everyone seems kinda crazy when viewed from outside. Viewed from inside, it’s completely normal.

      And that’s the reason for doing this – having an outside reference point, being able to see what’s invisible otherwise. (Well, really just one reason among many.)

      To keep it short(-ish), let’s just take the last model from above. “It’s all me.” Nonsense, huh? But it’s just as (in)consistent as the others, really. So could it be…? …and the moment it starts to seem real to you, it becomes a powerful tool – reflecting every question back onto yourself, forcing you to face your fears, to see yourself, with nowhere to hide. It’s incredibly brutal. Can you see how it can help you improve yourself? I hope you also see how it can get you killed in no time flat or how you can start treating people like shit.

      So people communicate these ideas, because they’re obviously useful. With time, things are lost. In the extreme, you’d get people talking shit, worshipping shit, and treating themselves and others like shit. In particularly dark years, people would decide to kill each other arguing about whether the Original Shit smelled more like dog shit or bat shit. Holy Shit!

      To look at a real world example: People are ruining their lives, willing to kill others, just to flip the polarity of a small region on a shiny spinning disk in a blinking box. You can get colorful pieces of paper if ‘your’ region of that disk has the correct polarity, and you can get just about anything for these. On the other hand, if you don’t have these scraps of paper, people will let you starve and die. Total bullshit? But if you believe in money, all of this looks completely normal, to the point where you don’t even notice it happening. Beliefs tend to work no matter how fucked up they are. (Can we get rid of the bullshit an keep the stuff we like? Do you have a better idea? Well, I don’t.)

      The problem is not just (in) religion, it’s everywhere.

    17. March 17, 2013 at 10:15 pm

      The trouble with having a background in linguistics is that all debates end up looking like arguments about the definition of a word.

      In this case, “Christianity”, which means:

      - A religion primarily based on the vicious and life-denying teachings of the Old Testament (although see http://mythodrome.net/disentangling-the-deities for a suggestion that early Judaism might also have been misrepresented by later “Christianity”) .

      - The hybrid religion created by Constantine in 312 AD marrying Christian symbolism to an essentially Roman pagan base, later corrupted even further by marriage with the political power of the European civilisation.

      - The teachings of an enlightened master, Yeshua, who probably had exposure to aspects of Eastern practices.

      - The lineage that followed him ~ 33AD to ~ 62 AD.

      - The same lineage to 312 AD, including Gnostic thought and practices.

      - Those uncorrupted aspects of the lineage that survived until their suppression by the church in the Albigensian crusades etc.

      - Those aspects of the true lineage that survived in secret as the Knights Templar / White Brotherhood / Carbonari / Freemasons / Gnostics / Essenes / Sarmoun Brotherhood (delete according to taste).

      - Those aspects that survived in the hearts of good people who were raised Christian and tried to do their best to reconcile the confused (/evil) teachings of that religion with their own conscience and desire to do good.

      As Vinay and I may have already discussed, I am slightly more optimistic at the prospects of salvaging some useful tech from the carcass of institutional Christianity, if only because the mixture of Mithraic symbolism, Judaic mythology and Greek Neo-Platonic philosophy is so obviously ridiculous and unworkable that I think a lot of people who are nominally “Christian” would quite welcome a quiet inferno of accrued bullshit so that we can just go to church and worship the Invisible Gothic Infinite without all the embarassingly dodgy theology.

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