Fear of Equality, Part 3 03/06/2013

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The Myth of Liberty

Capitalism  is not only an economic and political system in which a country’s trade and industry are controlled by private owners for profit, and it is not only a system based on private ownership and generating profits for the “free market” and “investors.” It is actually a functioning Religion, as well.

As a Religion, Capitalism provides many of the same features and benefits any metaphysical system could conceive. It deals entirely in matters of Faith, worship and beliefs in a Supreme Being (of sorts). There are Narratives that are passed down from written books written centuries ago by Priests and Prophets, who created expansive systems of economic theologies which believers take as proof of their God’s existence and Truth of the nature of Reality. There are several main beliefs that have been given a metaphysical status within Capitalism, although we’ll only touch upon a few. It is the enduring, totalizing and ubiquitous presence of these beliefs systems that have made Capitalism so entrenched and almost impossible – to – dislodge for what it is; a pious and deadly superstition. If we look at some of the main myths of Capitalism, it will be revealed that what actually is offered as the truth are distorted and destructive definitions that has been surreptitiously uprooted and erased from their original meanings. The amazing thing is that these transformed, innovated and falsified distortions have caused these definitions to drift away and disappear from their supposedly definite significations, and nobody has seemed to notice. It is much like donkey meat being sold as 100% ground beef at the supermarket, and people not knowing or caring about the difference.

1. Liberty

Capitalism claims to promote liberty, voluntary exchange, integrity, political freedom, private property and wealth. Of these, private ownership of property and personal liberty are touted as the main benefits of Capitalism, and with it, a moralistic presumption that these things are what everyone naturally desires and are entitled to by their own self-reliance and the Grace of God. This idea, among others from classical Liberalism from intellectuals like Hobbes,  and slave – traders such as John Locke and proslavery advocate Hugo Grotius [1]. “Sovereignty,” “natural law,” and the “pursuit of happiness,” were all the rage with these philosophers, although the question of slavery was still far from settled for these purveyors of liberty. With the rise of Capitalism, there was a growing realization that realities of slavery and the ideas of liberty were causing friction and discord among the European intelligentsia. Logic, reason and common sense failed to dislodge the institution of slavery from the institution of Christianity (which tacitly supported it) and the newly – formed investor class that was beginning to amass astounding, if risky profits from the slave trade.  It took centuries and the bloody American Civil War to help settle the question for good. The definition of Liberty, always as metaphysical and philosophical term of “freedom” which never existence in palpable  physical terms on Earth, was slowly transformed within the evolution of the Capitalistic system. Although slavery was abolished, with the idea that man could not have his labor sold without his consent or payment, what now “free” to rent his labor to another for a wage, instead. This bastardization of “liberty” is today’s “freedom” to libertarians and neoliberals, who have no problem in checking their avowed respect for “voluntary exchange” and “personal integrity” at the door, or change their meanings into a gross distortion, as long as it boosts profits.

Capitalism does not promote “liberty,” but in reality, produces a crypto-authoritarian state of enslavement, alienation, endless consumption, poverty, waste and war. Why do I say “crypto-authoritarian?” Because there is no “voluntary exchange” within Capitalism. There is only voluntary servitude. If one doesn’t “voluntarily” hand over one’s body, effort, mind and time to another, that person will not have a bed to sleep or food on their table. Yet Liberty is raised to religious heights, like an invisible Supreme Being that lives in the sky that has no shape or form other than that molded by inference, wishful thinking and ignorance born from the narratives of Capitalist propaganda. Nobody wants to live without a bed or food, because there is no life outside this  system, where only the hell and gnashing of teeth of  begging, destitution and death awaits. Quite an inescapable bubble we’ve managed to create for ourselves, and yet, the belief has solidified into a substance far heavier than Mount Everest: that this is the best of all possible worlds and that Capitalism is the best of all possible systems created by Man. Well, with half of the world’s population living on less than $2 a day, you couldn’t prove this to me.

2. The Individual and the Fear of the Group

Also known as God, the Übermensch or the Exceptional Man. Here as well Capitalism elevates the Individual into metaphysical terms as a perfect expression of humanity, the idealized being that conquers and subdues all in his path. Like the petulant, disgruntled John Galt, but this Individual does not exist, much like John Galt, does not exist, but is a story of the frustrated expression of enlightened self-interest. “Men of the mind” [2], as Ayn Rand would put it, whose genius and acumen creates the gifts of the Gods for the swarming masses of humanity.

Within the Capitalist  (and especially the Libertarian and anarcholibertarian) mythos, the Individual is granted an unassailable sovereignty that is unconcerned with anything that might dampen the fires of “enlightened” self – interest. This dimension of the Individual is meant to convey a political reality where the rights of the Individual is claimed to supersede the rights of the Group. When we speak of Fear of Equality we are in essence speaking about fear of the Group.  In Western Civilization, this fear has a deep philosophical undercurrent. The great Holy Trinity of Classical thought, Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, were all disdainful and fearful of democracy and majority rule. They thought, and many others as well, thought that the common man was a bit too dense to allow social groups to act as a politically cohesive unit. [3]

The Individual, according the Capitalist religion, is endowed with “rights,” “free choice” and “responsibilities” that must not be thwarted by any outside agency, for the Individual must be given “personal liberty,” free from the restraints of the leeches of society.  Individual must be granted total sovereignty over their body and more importantly, over the ability to form networks, agreements and relationships. This Individual seems to have no real connection or relationships with other Individuals, and seems to exist in and as an island unto themselves, unless one enters into a “voluntary association.”  Yet, even though this Individual must enter systems of social and financial relationships which forms a “Group” that he naturally fears and despises, according to the Capitalist mythos, the Individual must be allowed the liberty to dictate what kind of relationship he wants to enter with another, as long as it does not involve stealing or forcibly harming another’s body or property.

What is interesting here is that the current system steals and harms the largest portion of human beings (Individuals as a Group) on Earth. Of course the Individual lives in fear over that the Group will some day, out of sheer, overwhelming numbers and vengeance, take his property and wealth away. Ayn Rand went so far to even deny that society (as a Group) did not exist, since it is made up by Individuals, and did not enjoy any moral claims to have rights – “rights”  could only be enjoyed by the Individual. The grafting of a moral component to the capitalist concern of self – interest was a cheap trick (who isn’t for morality?), but many have bought it. And few have questioned how is it that Capitalism (composed of one group of Individuals), as a “moral” system, holds no responsibility for the incredibly damaging effects it produces for this planet and the larger group of Individuals living on it.  “Rights,” “liberty” and “morality” are imaginary, metaphysical concepts used to justify the trap that exists as the jaws of a nightmare from which there is no escape.

Only the fear of the Group is real.

NEXT: The Survival of the Fittest

NOTES

[1] Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) was immensely influential in developing the “natural law” idea that would be borrowed and expanded upon by such thinkers as Thomas Hobbes, Jean-Jaques Rousseau and Locke. Among his ideas was that is permissible for a being to enter into voluntary servitude in exchange for a stable society. Compare this with the modern libertarianism of  Robert Nozick’s notorious statement from his book, “Anarchy, State, and Utopia” (1974):  “The comparable question about an individual is whether a free system will allow him to sell himself into slavery.  I believe that it would.” While Libertarians wonder why they aren’t taken more seriously, this is precisely the reality we all find ourselves in.

[2] Ayn Rand’s hero, John Galt, who is meant to be a Capitalist “hero” in Rand’s novel, “Atlas Shrugged,” is a rather poor example of the flower of Capitalism Rand’s followers make him out to be, because the question must be asked; what self – respecting Capitalist worth his salt goes on strike against… his customers?

In a lengthy speech that drags on for dozens of pages, Galt crows, ““All the men who have vanished, the men you hated, yet dreaded to lose, it is I who have taken them away from you. Do not attempt to find us. We do not choose to be found. Do not cry that it is our duty to serve you. We do not recognize such duty. Do not cry that you need us. We do not consider need a claim. Do not cry that you own us. You don’t. Do not beg us to return. We are on strike, we, the men of the mind.”

[3] Aristotle:  “A democracy is a government in the hands of men of low birth, no property, and vulgar employments.” and “Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers.” Plato was just as scornful: “Democracy… is a charming form of government, full of variety and disorder; and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequals alike.” According to research by I. F. Stone in his book, The Trial of Socrates, Socrates was put to death because of his teaching of anti-democratic views to his pupils in Athens.

 

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Human Potential Movement Part 3. The New Self-Help Gurus

Wanna make a million? Write a self-Help book.

The New Self-Help Gurus

They’ve given seminars, been on television and made millions with their self-help books flooding the market. It is the Holy Trinity of Eckhart Tolle, Deepak Chopra and Wayne Dyer. Their messages are essentially interchangeable, based as it is on a mash-up of various spiritual and philosophical sources, mixed in with a penchant for giving their followers opinionated homilies passed off as “truth.” All spiritual teachings are essentially one teaching: that if one listens to this transference of “wisdom,” then one will become more healthy, wealthy and wise. But the reality is that nothing practical will ever be given to aid all humanity by these super-salesmen.

Eckhart Tolle (Ulrich Leonard Tolle), experienced an epiphany which eventually led to Tolle writing books and holding seminars discussing enlightenment and other subjects, namely the transformation of human consciousness, which may be the highest form of human potential possible, according to these gurus.

Tolle, like everyone else involved in the consciousness-raising business, often engages in opinion-making that he presents as fact. For example, the well-known experience of Tolle’s “epiphany” – an event which changed a once-suicidal depressive into a spiritual leader and best-selling author, has colored everything the man says. So when Tolle gives an opinion delivered as “fact,” it sounds like this:

“Life will give you whatever experience is most helpful for the evolution of your consciousness.”

The “evolution of consciousness” is a narrative that just about explains anything. Unfortunately, nobody can prove such an evolution is happening. The trite simplicity of Tolle’s quote above, however, causes one to wonder why people choose to believe such things, as the quote  suffers badly when lightly taken apart. So when we go through our day, are we responsible for our experiences, or is “life” (?) dictating what befall us? Am I choosing to experience an event, or is “life” selecting events for me against my will? Why is “life” interested in the evolution of my consciousness, anyway?  Obviously, Tolle’s epiphany has a lot to do with the shape and content of his opinions. He believes that he experienced some form of enlightenment which has “evolved” his consciousness.” But he doesn’t actually know what happened. Besides, if you read any of Tolle’s books, you will not be able to find one single new idea anywhere. Tolle’s works, along with those by Chopra, Neale Donald Walsch, etc., are nothing more than a spiritual stew full of rehashed mash-ups of ancient ideas and philosophies, without the nuance and mystery. Seems more like a devolution of consciousness is happening here, folks.

Fact is, metaphysicians have urged others to evolve the human being metaphysically for at least 30 centuries. Shamen, gurus and spiritualists have forever been proclaiming that raising one’s nature “high enough,” one becomes as “God.” The New Self Help gurus of the 21st Century are merely regurgitating commonly known spiritual language and dressing it up modern parlance. It seems that the metaphysical experiment has reached the end of its life as a living art; a deadening hollowness exists at its core, failing to offer anything truly new in 3000 years; it has endlessly repeated itself to the point of absurdity. It offers nothing but ancient, discredited promises dripping from the voices of a disingenuous, but crack metaphysical sales team.

At the beginning of its reign, the Human Potential Movement was largely a program for profit. When someone discovered, like Dale Carnegie, Norman Vincent Peale or L. Ron Hubbard, that there existed a sizeless, titanic market of selling people their own desire to “improve” themselves, they most likely couldn’t believe their luck. The mass consumption of self-help books has turned out to be insatiable and everlasting (Dale Carnegie materials and courses are still available and profitable after 80 years). The best advice to someone wanting to be published is to write a self-help book.

Listen: self-transformation ingeniously linked to the dollar and spiritual perfection has given the self-help industry enough legs to continue its run well into the 21st Century. Although the movement’s heyday occurred during the 1960’s and 70’s, the program of focusing on intense personal achievement by the individual is still being pushed to this day by an opportunistic and self-aggrandizing sales pitch, and many of them only give broadly vague or distasteful solutions for the intractable problems in this world. For example, Osho’s solution for homosexuality was to segregate gays from the rest of the population. Esther Hicks and Abraham only solution to poverty, suffering or abuse is to not dwell on negative thoughts. Seriously. And as stupid as that sounds, people eat it up.

The irony should not be lost here. The teachers of the Human Potential Movement concentrate on getting the individual sorted out mentally and “spiritually” first before concentrating on getting what they want and make their dreams come true.  While humanity’s world continues to devolve and splinter apart, listen to the Human Potential Movement – it wants you to become a “winner,” although it fails to offer any solution to rampant human suffering, the nature of evil, or  inequality. It promotes an agenda based entirely on imagination. Remember the message of The Secret: get what you want by thinking about it. Physical action not necessary.  That message clicked because of an agenda built upon “spiritual” fabrications, human desire and most of all, the glorification of personal self-interest while everyone one else can go screw.

The Human Potential Movement Part 2. The New Age

The “Secret” with dealing with Rhonda Byrne? Sign the contract.

Human Potential Movement  and the New Age
At the beginning of the 20th Century, the followers of a Greek-Armenian mystic with a message of awakening to a “higher consciousness” promoted George I. Gurdjieff (1866?-1949) as an enlightened spiritual master. Gurdjieff claimed that human beings were helplessly caught in a “waking sleep” unable to perceive reality fully, thus Gurdjieff’s teachings were necessary in order for the student to transform his life into one of enlightenment and clarity.

Gurdjieff’s theories were allegedly given to him through a mysterious association of a secret spiritual group called the “Sarmoung Brotherhood,” an esoteric Sufi group that Gurdjieff claimed descended from the Assyrians who live somewhere in the “heart of Asia.” Modern critics claim that the Sarmoung was a fictive device Gurdjieff used to promote is ideas.

In America there was a concurrent, if small movement that taught that humanity was spiritually evolving. In 1924, Baird Thomas Spalding (1872–1953) began publishing a series of books called, Life and Teaching of the Masters of the Far East. These books allegedly depict Baird interviewing beings of great spiritual power, “Ascended Masters” much like the “Mahatma” figures made popular by Helena Blavatsky and the mysterious Sarmoung Brotherhood of G. I. Gurdjieff.

Guy Ballard (1878–1939), who happened to be a friend of Spalding, claimed he met the Ascended Master “Saint Germain” on Mount Shasta. The message from the Ascended Masters was that they were once human beings after becoming perfect during reincarnation; their spiritual perfection allowed them to be immortal, residing in the higher planes of existence. They invariably mentioned that their evolution from human to god was destined to occur for all humanity, in accordance to the Divine Plan.

Even though the core of the HPM was wrapped around the pole of existential humanism, there was a metaphysical slant that appeared at the beginning, thanks to Esalen’s attraction to Zen Buddhism, and Esalen’s attraction to the ideas of Sri Aurobindo (1872-1950), who had worked on his theories of spiritual evolution and what he called, the “Supermind.” For Aurobindo, the Supermind is similar to the nous or the Logos of Classical Greek metaphysics, and the familiar all-pervading Brahman of Hinduism; the divine creative consciousness, transcendent and immanent within the world. According to Aurobindo, the potential exists within every human to access the consciousness of the Supermind which would lead the humanity into a realm of supernatural transformation.

Alice Bailey (1888-1949) produced a multitude of densely complex spiritual material that covered, in part, the role of what Bailey termed, the “Spiritual Hierarchy.” This squad of immortal masters were behind the physical and spiritual evolution of humanity. Whereas the “Mahatmas” of Blavatsky claimed that depictions of “God” were “imaginary,”[1] Bailey’s Masters argued that a “spiritual plan” presupposed its creation by “God,” and included an intervention of cosmic avatars who would descend to Earth and prepare humanity for the arrival of the cosmic Christ, who would then rule the Earth along side the Spiritual Hierarchy (which sounds much like a New Age reinterpretation of Christian fundamentalist view of the Book of Revelations). Bailey believed that the raising of one’s consciousness to the divine, as will as recognizing one’s inner divinity would initiate a golden age for humanity. [2]

In 1963, Jane Roberts (1929-1984) and her husband Robert Butts where playing on a Ouija board when she began receiving messages from a spirit who came to call himself, “Seth.” The material dictated by “Seth” energized and gave shape and form to the emerging New Age movement of the 1960s and 1970s. Seth repeated stated that the key to self-transformation was to “create your own reality.” The Seth Material almost single-handedly gave the New Age in the 1970’s its vocabulary, shape and cosmology. “Seth” continuously referenced “Inner Selves,” “Higher Selves” and that consciousness creates and influences the physical. Seth also loudly echoed and reinforced positive thinking principles. New Age luminaries like Shatki Gawain, Marianne Williamson, Deepak Chopra and many others have referenced the Seth Material as being a great influence in their thinking.

J.Z. Knight (Judith Darlene Hampton) and her channeled being, “Ramtha,” who claims to be a being from an ancient and advanced race of humans in the distant past and became an “ascended master,” speaking through Knight and continuing in Seth’s path in the wake of Roberts’ death in 1984. The message from Knight/Ramtha was that consciousness and energy can change reality. Consciousness and energy are the same. Human beings, according to Ramtha, are on a path towards enlightenment, and we are also “divine” (echoing many spiritualists of the past).

Rhonda Byrne and “The Secret”
However, the culmination of 20th Century spirituality occurred in 2007 with the release of the film, The Secret. Rhonda Byrne, the film’s creator, claimed that the core ideas for the film were the messages from a book written in 1906; “Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World,” by W.W. Atkinson (a New Thought writer) and Wallace Wattles’ 1910 book, “The Science of Getting Rich.” The Secret contains many New Thought ideas such as, “No rules according to the universe… you provide the feelings of having it now and the universe will respond.” The Secret, although considered as “New Age” as anything, was primarily a reiteration of a century-old New Thought spirituality.

The Secret, with the help of media attention, slick packaging and being in the right place at the right time, made millions for Byrne, and brought attention to the stable of speakers featured in the film. Byrne was embroiled in a legal dispute with two former associates who claimed they were promised a cut of the profits from Byrne’s film, which reportedly grossed $20 million in the first eight months (The film and books ended up raking in over $300 million collected worldwide). When the subject of payment came up with her Australian director and co-author of the screenplay, Drew Heriot (who had personally kicked in $10,000 towards the production), Byrne instead fired him.

“Essentially, she said my company wouldn’t be working with her again and they’d be using another writer and director for the sequel. I said, ‘I can’t believe you are doing this. Are you saying there is no profit-share?’ She said, ‘Yes, but I can return the $10,000 you gave me.’”[3]

Heriot sued Byrne for copyright infringement and fraud. Heriot sued Byrne, but lost in court in 2009. [4] Heriot vowed to appeal. Apparently, the Law of Attraction works better if you get it in writing.

Esther Hicks and “Abraham”

One of the main speakers in the original cut [5] of The Secret was Esther Hicks and her channeled entity (or entities, as Hicks claims Abraham is a collection of beings), who carried their Law of Attraction message to a wider audience. Esther Hicks was influenced by Seth Material, in particular, “Seth Speaks” and (not surprisingly) Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich,” which seems to be the go-to book for anyone wanting to make a splash in the Human Potential Movement. Abraham/Hicks goes a step farther beyond being indebted to the Law of Attraction, for if you visit the Abraham/Hicks site you’ll see a rebranding of the Law of Attraction as the “Teachings of Abraham” and where your grandfather’s Law of Attraction took time to get what you wanted, the Teachings of Abraham offers of manifesting your desires “instantly.” I suppose we can call this Law of Attraction 2.0.

Next: The Human Potential Movement Part 3. The New Prosperity Gurus

Notes

[1]  The Mahatma Letters to A.P. Sinnett, 2nd. ed., TUP, 53, 1926. pg.142- 43.

[2] Bailey, Alice. A Treatise on White Magic, Lucis Publishing 10-11

[3] Guilliatt, Richard. “The secret of Rhonda.” Australian Magazine. 28 2008: n. page. Web. 31 Oct. 2012.

[4] “Heriot recalls that early on Byrne promised him a percentage of the film’s profits, but rebuffed his request for a written contract. “Rhonda actually insisted that we not have a contract – she said they limited people’s freedom, that they’re designed to guard against things going wrong, which is not the way of The Secret because it is focusing on the negative,” he says.” (Guilliatt).

Indeed, since Heriot did not get the promise down in writing, he effectively failed “to guard against things going wrong,” allowing Byrne to “burn” him out of millions. 

[5] Salkin, Allen. “Shaking Riches Out of the Cosmos.” New York Times, 25 Feb. 2007. Web. 31 Oct. 2012. Byrne promised the Hicks 10% of the DVD sales, but just before the big money came in, Byrne told the Hicks that they would either have to accept ripping up the contract or be cut out of the film. The Hicks took $500,000 and went away. 

06/21/2012 – 2012 and the Uselessness of Compassion

Shinzen Young: Genuine wisdom or ironic Zen nonsense? 

“Compassion is to share the pain without sharing the suffering.” ~Shinzen Young. 

How can one who claims to be a spiritual master be so oblivious of misguided nonsense that escapes from the depths of  their brainpan? And yet, acclaimed and renowned “mindfulness” teacher Shinzen Young seems unaware of the violence of his redefinition-mangling in service of his metaphysical  perspective. In his attempt to fuse “contemplative meditation” techniques of the East with the “scientific method” of the West, Shinzen Young has been lauded for his “innovative interactive, algorithmic approach to mindfulness.” “Mindfulness” refers to the Buddhist contemplative meditation techniques (Vipassanā) where the goal is to focus on the awareness of the mind and body and achieve knowledge of the nature of reality which then I suppose makes one a “Spiritual Master.”

But why do so many “Spiritual Masters” say such ridiculous, incomprehensible bullshit? Has their “mindfulness” meditation experiences left them with so much knowledge about the nature of reality that they can even see how far removed they’ve become from every-day common sense? Run through the above quote once more:

“Compassion is to share the pain without sharing the suffering.” 

What’s the takeaway point of this sentence? Well, the unintended point made by Shinzen reveals the uselessness of compassion, which is commonly described as an emotional response within a person to the misfortune and suffering of another and wanting to do something about it to remove the other’s plight. But to create a situation where one can safely  share one’s pain without sharing the other’s suffering is like having one’s cake and eating it too. Why would anyone want to share another’s suffering “out of compassion” without getting down into the dirty, painful and equality-based business of removing the suffering for everyone? Because nobody in their “right mind” would want to. It is the human design to avoid suffering at all costs, especially if one has enough money – and it takes money – to keep physical suffering at a manageable level.

But nobody, including Shinzen, would want to actually do something about the suffering of others in this world, or literally place their feet in the shoes of someone’s suffering.  Much better to “feel bad” about the plight of human trafficking or hearing about children starving to death in the media. A brief, cheap, momentary emotional investment called “compassion” is enough for most people.

But one doesn’t really “share the pain”  of others through compassion, do they? And this is where Shinzen misses the point. He could have said something more profound by revealing the uselessness of human compassion – where one could place the total amount of that human emotion one side of an equation against the totality of human suffering on the other side and see how effective emotions really are in dealing with the human condition of suffering. Or he could have gotten down into the shit with the misfortunate  others like Mother Teresa – who despite her existential doubts spent her life amid the suffering of others [1] and could only cope with her own metaphysical doubts by linking her own spiritual suffering and the suffering of others with the “suffering of Jesus.” But that doesn’t seem to be any more effective in dealing with the removal of suffering, does it?

Spouting religious and spiritual language and meditative exercises  to deal with human problems has simply never worked. Using human emotions like compassion, pity and sympathy to deal with human problems has simply never, ever worked in stopping the condition of human suffering. What statements like these do is allow the person who comes across them to become beguiled by the implied “wisdom” imparted. But it isn’t “wisdom.” It’s just ironic Zen-Buddhist bullshit.  It’s bullshit because all statements made from the starting point of projecting a religiously philosophical perspective can only fail in providing real insight to humanity. Buddhism has been around for nearly 3000 years and it’s failed in bringing “enlightenment” to the people. It’s ironic because Shinzen obviously believes in the power of compassion without sharing another’s suffering but he simply fails to understand that such a point reveals compassion to be nothing more than an illusion. Then again,  this is quite proper since all metaphysics deal with elevating illusions into meaningless life-long obsessions – while choosing to ignore and excuse real suffering and despair with pious blandishments and feel-good flowerhat philosophies And now you know what really matters to these spiritual shysters. Forget about trying to find a way to lift the peoples of this world out of an endemic of inequality. What is most important to these gurus is within the relation of their own knowledge and information about the nature of reality to others while making a buck. I can only hope against hope that people will wake up and reject that and choose equality for all and make it happen. But first, we have to stop listening and being bewitched by the deceptive spiritual nonsense these gurus love to share so much. 

Note

[1]]”Now Father—since 49 or 50 this terrible sense of loss—this untold darkness—this loneliness—this continual longing for God—which gives me that pain deep down in my heart.—Darkness is such that I really do not see—neither with my mind nor with my reason.—The place of God in my soul is blank.—There is no God in me.—When the pain of longing is so great—I just long & long for God—and then it is that I feel—He does not want me—He is not there.—Heaven—souls—why these are just words—which mean nothing to me.—My very life seems so contradictory. I help souls—to go where?—Why all this? Where is the soul in my very being? God does not want me.—Sometimes—I just hear my own heart cry out—“My God” and nothing else comes.—The torture and pain I can’t explain.”

Letter to Father Joseph Neuner by Mother Teresa.

2012/3/31 – 2012 & UGK – Is Enlightenment Possible?

While I don’t agree with everything he said, U.G. Krishnamurti got one thing right. “Enlightenment is a thought-induced experience.”

UGK correctly demonstrates how the very idea of “Enlightenment” is contingent upon accepting the claims of the “Great Sages” without question. This is very important to understand, as the mechanism of so-called enlightenment has only come down to us through the transmission of the traditions laid down by the sages and their proponents. In other words, “Enlightenment,” like the concept of “God” or the “Divine,” is something that one never experiences without first hearing all about it from somebody else. The narrative of “enlightenment” always involves a search for a guru who has experienced it and relates the alleged state to others. If one accepts the narrative of the Buddha, one has to imagine that nobody had ever experienced “enlightenment” before. Yet, the Buddha made it his mission, claimed to achieve it, and then told everyone else about it. But UGK hits the nail on the head when he remarks in this interview that,

“…once one questions the whole idea of enlightenment, or as you put it, the concept of enlightenment,  we are questioning the teachers who have talked about it – and we have invested tremendous faith in them, so the sentiment comes into the picture, and we accept it as the gospel truth.”

According to the stories related by the Buddhists, Buddha actually achieved “enlightenment.” How he managed to convince others that he spoke the truth would be no great feat considering the way most people are willing to believe in any well – told story, the more grandiose the better. This is why religion and spirituality still reigns in a world where any evidence of the divine is completely lacking. When Nietzsche exclaimed in the 19th century that “God is dead,” it seems that he spoke only for himself and the minority of European intelligentsia who defined the role of religion as a control dynamic of the masses.
Nietzsche must’ve hoped that his view would become dominant in an empirical world of logical positivism, but could not have foreseen that the masses would  never be able to give up their sentiment attached to religion, for sentiment, through its power of emotionalism and feeling is believed to be a higher form of knowledge (a “peace that passes understanding”), that ultimately breaks down all common sense and the ability for discernment.

UGK’s contention, which is very close to my own, is that enlightenment, the “soul,” or spirit, are all inventions and projections of consciousness which demands some assurance of survival. When the interviewer asks UGK that he imagines that the body does not survive after death but he hopes that his “ability to experience” (sentience) will continue at some level after death. UGK. asks in return, “Can you experience your body while you are living now?”

Of course, Western philosophy has always taken an interest in the nature of consciousness. When the interviewer brings up the famous maxim of Descartes: “I think, therefore I am,” UKG says that Descartes asked the wrong question and references an old Indian adage:  “If you are not thinking, are you there?”

Clearly, UGK considers that consciousness and its production of analysing its understanding of experience, projections, thoughts, knowledge and emotions (etc.), creates a vicious circle of impediments to any understanding of the meaning of life.  When the interviewer expresses (almost in exasperation), “It sounds like we’re trapped,” UGK offers only that “there is no answer” to getting out of the trap. Enlightenment, or rather, the enlightenment claimed to be in the possession of  so-called spiritual masters throughout human history, has not elevated the whole of humanity one iota or solved a single problem confronting the human race. The enormous catalog of suffering, poverty, war and exploitation has grown larger with each passing century. UGK correctly surmises what enlightenment actually is: an imaginary “solution” within the metaphysics of “hope.” This leads UGK to say that there was no “answer” and “no escape” from the condition of the world, and this was his big miss. He did not see or accept his responsibility to this world or how universal equality is the answer.

It’s a pity, because UGK perhaps could have offered us even more than what he left behind.

3/28/2012- 2012: Spirituality as Energetic Mind Enslavement

Freedom of Belief: Narratives of Mental Enslavement

The ancient Greek philosophers that lived before Socrates (d. 399 BCE) tried to devise cosmologies that offered a more naturalistic explanation of how the world worked, as they found the religious and mystical explanations lacking. They sought a unifying principle which they believed to consist of a singular substance from whence all things were made. Thales believed that water was the principle. Others believed it was fire or air.  To the modern mind, such theories, in light of what we believe we now today,  are laughable and quaint, but these speculations actually formed the beginning of the scientific process. We are intrigued at how the element of spinning stories to explain the visible world is essentially all philosophy and religion has ever done. Buddha found “enlightenment” under the bodhi tree. Adam and Eve at the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden. Jesus as the Son of God, died and came back to life. The earth is flat.  I think, therefore I am. Human beings are inherently good. Man is born with Free Will. There are supernatural powers that control reality and human destiny. And so on. But it is important to realize that these narratives, while they are quite handy in providing cover for our fears, when it comes to religious beliefs, they can never escape what they are: constructions of human consciousness in response to fear of the unknown.

Have you ever wondered why there are so many expressions of supernatural belief? How about that first person who convinced another that they saw a “god” or some spiritual event actually happened? What has to happen to someone for them to believe in something that they don’t understand? Let me give you an example of what I mean.

A colleague of mine was explaining to me why he was a Christian. The story he shared centered on this point; that there was a person he knew that had some sort of medical problem and he prayed about and was miraculously healed. “What else could it be,” he asked me. The unspoken answer that obviously formed in his mind was that it had to be “God.”

“Can’t you see,” I replied, “that all you did was create a story to explain something you don’t understand?”

“You must be a free-thinker.” (I’ve been called this many times in my life). He continued,” I respect your beliefs, why don’t you respect mine?”

In other words, he is asking me to believe that what he believes in is actually true. But I wasn’t claiming that he made the story up. “Your mind just created an answer. You can’t prove God healed your friend.” [1]

“You can’t prove God didn’t,” he replied.

“Then explain why God healed your friend and not the thousands who died today?” Because, wait for it… it was God’s will. See how wonderfully the different narratives dovetail into each other to form a perfect circle of logic of theology? Unless this person can find it within himself to break out of this mental fun house of crucified gods and miracles, he will be trapped within this for the rest of his life.

I bet some are asking, “But what’s the harm in believing in religion and its stories? Isn’t it a basic human right to freely express one’s religious belief?”

Take a look at the wars that are occurring now in this world. The Israeli–Palestinian conflict (which is part of the larger Arab – Israeli conflict) which has its roots in the desperate religious competition between Muslims and Jews. In Nigeria there are murders galore being committed by religious fanatics representing Christianity and Islam. The Lord’s Resistance Army led by Joseph Kony has been running religious war in the central Africa for over 20 years, killing, torturing, raping all in the name of Kony’s twisted Christian theology. In Yemen a civil war is being fought between Islamic Sunni and Shi’a sects and both sides are not above recruiting child soldiers to fight each other.

I could go on and on. These religious atrocities are occurring in modern times, never mind the voluminous catalog of vaguely ignorant fears the Unexplained conjured up in centuries past. Needless to say, humanity has not benefited from the religious narratives in any way.

Sai Baba is quoted to have said, “ The mind carries the divine principle (the light of love) and conveys it to all who contacts it.” From what I’ve seen in this world, the mind is a repository of unimaginable cruelty where the “light of love” only exists as a denial of the horrors that befall most people on this planet on a daily basis, almost of it committed by competing economic, political and religious systems.  Sai Baba may have actually believed his slogan of the light and love principle of the mind, but the fact remains  that all he could do was provide a nice-sounding story for his followers.

Isn’t religion the most subtle form of brainwashing? Isn’t spirituality the most subtle form of Mind Enslavement?

Now, what does this have to do with the notion that people have the “right” to choose and express their religious beliefs?

Note

[1] Reminds me of the story of Diagoras of Melos, the notorious Greek atheist who allegedly threw a wooden statue of Hercules into a fire and commanded it to either miraculously save itself or perform his 13th Labor and boil his pot of turnips. For this, a price was laid upon his head by the city fathers of Athens, causing Diagoras to skip town. But the story I want to tell comes from the Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero:  Diagoras was being lectured by a friend who tried to convince him of the existence of the gods by showing him the many votive pictures lovingly rendered by those who were saved from storms at sea by “dint of vows to the gods.” Diagoras replied, “Where are the pictures of those who had been shipwrecked and drowned at sea?”