• On the spiritual

    by  • March 19, 2011 • Everything Else • 4 Comments

    The Longest Road, Morgan Page / Lissie, Downtempo remix. Not the other mixes. ;)

    I’ve tried to avoid writing this for some time. I’ve searched for another way, for a way of putting what’s inside of me – inside of all of us – into action without words. It’s not enough, I’m bursting at the seams.

    Between you and what you might call god is a story. I say “might” because, as I’ve explained elsewhere, we Hindus don’t believe in god. Gods, yes, and a universal creative consciousness who’s nature is pure bliss but no God per-se. Life is what you make of it, laws are ways of getting along with each other, and there’s nobody with the authority to command anything. It’s all very decentralized and hard to understand. But the ultimate experiences, joy and union and being, all of that stuff is there in all religious traditions, in one form or another, and usually ascribed to God.

    But I’m procrastinating.

    Here’s what I’m trying to say: we can actually do this.

    We can actually do this.

    We could make the world work. We have the science and the material resources. There’s just one problem standing in our way.

    We are losing the world to our lousy, destructive forms of social organization, and those attempts are largely based based on failed religious traditions with obscene mythologies of torture and destruction and vengeance. And adherents of these systems will tell you the world is hell, and then make it one. To be an American president you must swear public allegiance to a jealous sky faerie. There are a lot of very reasonable people who will never be leader of the free world because of their choice in personal mythology, and this is a massive problem. It means the only people who can be president are liars or delusional.

    You don’t need their god, or their Jesus, or their Muhammad, or their Moses, to make your way to the still center of being within you, and to know, for sure, that whatever created you is benign. Perhaps these people were wonderful and their followers screwed it up. Perhaps religions start as a simple, beautiful method which time corrupts.

    I know not. I care not.

    But to stop acting in such stupid ways, to let each-other be happy, gay or straight, black or white, rich and poor alike, we have to step beyond the denigration of the earth, women and freedom which is at the heart of so much of the contemporary practice of religion.

    The happy, content human race has two billion plus enemies: every single person who professes the need for people to obey a religious law, or face eternal torment. Every person who tells you that Gandhi is going to hell because he doesn’t believe in X, Y and Z, and that Leonardo da Vinci shares his fate for being gay is an enemy of the human species. Those belief systems, with hell at their core, and the fear of hell their psychological inheritance, are incompatible with peace on earth and true personal happiness. Their followers start wars and persecutions based on memetic contaminations in their heads, and their life-denying ideologies become dangerous indeed when confronted with nuclear weapons and the urgent need to cut our environmental impact. Their only power is their claim to absolute truth, and their assertion of a vengeful god’s enforcement.

    If you’re one of these people, stop. You’ve been deceived. It’s not that there is no god – god knows I’ve done enough meditation to have had first hand experiences of a kind which left me in no doubt about the existence of a benign, albeit somewhat impersonal, creative power at the root of everything visible in the universe. But the pit of fear created by the unconscious perception of an avenging skylord who’s eternal dungeons make Guantanamo Bay look like Butlins has driven a very substantial minority of our species completely insane. And those people elected George Bush, who laid waste Iraq and Afghanistan and plunged the world back into war. They are fucking this up for all of us.

    You cannot make that kind of war without god on your side. The fundamental faith in one’s rightness, in the Cause above the simple horror of killing is what gives people the moral authority to murder. Sometimes this religious impulse, this desire to control the world in a manner tied up to political authority, whether it is the US model of manifest destiny or the USSR model of marxism and historical inevitability, is seen in an explicitly religious form. Sometimes it goes underground and shows up as the Worker’s Revolutions or the Free Market, but however it happens the truth is that the world does not need religious law for people to be happy, and all the historical evidence is that when the church in whatever form is strong, and particularly when it is fused to the state, huge suffering results.

    If you want my ideas about what individuals should do about such matters, they follow:

    1. Stop watching television. That’s about 30 hours a week you’ll have back to learn and act. It will break you out of culture.
    2. Stop acting on unproven religious beliefs. For many that will result in radical social shifts too, as one accepts that the historical Jesus, if there is one, would disapprove so intensely of nearly everything done in his name that we should not be surprise if the conscious decision to discard religion entirely is completely compatible with a regard for the historical figures at the root of the world’s major religious traditions. But, in any case, knock it off. If you’re smart enough to wonder about life and death, you’re smart enough to discard the sky faeries and square your actions with observed reality.
    3. By all means read the mystics. They use the language of religion, but have experiences which they try and document, transmit and make accessible, while all the time trying not to get killed by priests and imams. Wayfarers in consciousness, psychedelic in the sense of mind-manifesting, by all means read the mystics. And believe nothing about their explanations of any state of consciousness outside of the most mundane. They can describe their experiences, but if you were not there, you do not know the difference between a relevant vision and a post-facto rationalization.
    4. Deal with the world as it is, which means looking at the statistical data around suffering. The World Health Organization stats are one particularly find source of disturbing numbers about how the other half dies.

    Faith, all faith, is superstition and it is incompatible with survival in a world filled with nuclear weapons. We must abandon the apocalypse, and the myth of progress, and live in accordance with that which we can see, feel and experience for ourselves.

    The just peace requires individual human beings to be happy, and the absurd theology, which paints life as a momentary exam question, with either eternal reward or eternal torment at the end of it ruins our ability to deal with the world on its own terms.

    We need to love the world as it is to save it, and not treat it as the examination hall of a tyrant god. Release the sky tyrant in all forms, and face the world that these superstitions have made.

    Together we can fix it. But it starts, as it must, with the abandoning of the belief systems which dominated the culture and drove us to these obscene ends. Free yourselves, and to work! Centuries of ignorance and unconscious hatred of life have toxified and contaminated our planet almost beyond repair, as these pathologies of belief, indeed memetic infections, have driven our species to destructive insanity.

    If you want to save the world, you must sacrifice your myth that it exists only as a test, and love the world on its own terms.

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


    4 Responses to On the spiritual

    1. March 20, 2011 at 1:16 pm

      If a peaceful and joyful future is dependent upon the disappearance of the Abrahamic religious, then we will wait in vain for peace. I am actually a bit astonished at the breadth of this condemnation and its lack of nuance. If this essay is what you really believe Vinay, you and everyone else might as well give up now.

    2. Nick
      March 20, 2011 at 11:06 pm

      I agree with your core argument that we can make this work technically; low cost small passive solar homes, localized high density food production, and localize open source manufacturing can go a long way.

      Conflicting ideologies and religions though is really one hell of a mess though, and in many ways solving the technical aspects of our problems is much much easier…
      I don’t have much to offer in terms of solving this problem, but would like to share that after bouts of severe disillusionment with the world and its current state I was only able to pull out and find meaning and fulfillment in my life through the words and practices of a great variety of the worlds mystics and meditation/contemplative traditions. For a long while I would be intensely digesting the mystics from one tradition to another, and though the flavor changed from tradition to tradition their certainly is spiritual sustenance to be had in most all of them. Having experienced that first hand I can understand how someone indoctrinated into one path with some supporting spiritual experience like feeling the holy spirit,or having a samadhi experience with a particular diety ect could make understanding another world view very difficult. Of course there is the flip side of fear pushed by corrupt priesthood which also entrains folks. Either way I don’t expect these types of believers will be able to change easily.

      If pressed to think of one thing to try to remedy the situation I think our education systems should require a thorough study of the world religions. These are after all the belief systems that many people construct their realities with.

    3. April 29, 2011 at 12:30 am

      I was trying to send a message asking help for setting a hexayurt and I found a spiritual discussion that is worth a word of agreement. Yes, mystics are the real seers, the ones that see the unity beyond and besides diversity. They don´t belong to one separate religion. When I hear the stories of Kabir or Mirabai or Caetanya Mahaprabhu or Saint Francis or Jesus I can´t avoid crying. They move my heart towards God. And I feel free to chant in an evangelical church as well as in the woods.

    4. Chris Naden
      December 11, 2011 at 6:09 pm

      Bob: the JCI triad are only the most violent symptom of the problem. As Vinay accurately identifies here, it’s not the sky-fairies, or even the ancient prophets, that are the problem here. Is is the very concept of One True Way. Market fundamentalists kill more people every year through poverty than Christian fundamentalists do through war. Alcohol-and-tobacco fundamentalists imprison more people every year than Iran does.

      The problem is that we came up with very powerful memes which propagate the idea of a single, true answer, which justifies the idea of everyone who disagrees being evil. Jesus didn’t do that; Constantine did, and others like him. Such is always the way.

      Julian of Norwich is a Christian worth learning from; again, Vinay recognises that the spiritual psychonauts of the past have worth in each corrupt tradition.

      The problem is the very concept of One True Way.

      As Heinlein put it: TMTOWTDI & TANSTAAFL.

      HTH, HAND.

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