What is sadly amusing to me, being affronted by nearly everyone today as critics of religion in general, who almost without exception have no real personal experience of it on which to base their judgments, is that in this society I am constantly coerced away from living my clear truth in favour of serving a corrupt & shallow set of fictitious ideas without ultimate basis. Namely ‘capitalist materialism’, a suicidally dangerous paradigm hanging on by its (our) very fingernails.
Everyday in so many ways the sleepwalking Matrix tells me I must, regardless of having transcended such ignorance, acquiesce to the fundamental metaphysical error that ‘I’ am a concrete separate entity existing to produce unnecessary stuff in a dream of scarcity and more-or-less soft slavery, only to stay alive longer and tolerably comfortably, while cementing the power of the greedy. My acquiescence to this frankly bizarre distortion of reality only reifies it, when in fact the larger joke is on us perpetuating it.
Who really faces the uncomfortable possibility that this is all utter delusion? Certainly without the understanding there is a real alternative. Who has this courage & clarity but one who has first profoundly disconnected himself from the hive?
Note the similarity to what they say religion is – ‘a set of coercive fictitious ideas‘, only the one we now desperately cling to today as real, is corrupt & shallow, rather than deep & so all the more easily misunderstood or (actually) innocently misused.
‘Flatlanders’ (Ken Wilber’s term) these days have no comprehension of the depths to which true religion goes, to the very structure of reality itself, so they think it can & should be summarily dismissed as a simply political phenomenon – even when it is conceded that on that level there have been issues. But real religion is not political, it is a personal practice.
So wrong. Perhaps longer term, as tragically wrong as terrorism itself. And shallow. Humans make even more mistakes comprehending the profound & intangible than they routinely do with what is right in front of their noses . Sorry, but it is only natural, and seen in this light no excuse to stay in the shallows. Real history is about duking out the big stuff.
These populist critics then make it all fit by inventing a neat fantasy distinction between religion & spirituality, so as to deride the one yet leave their vague notions of the other, won not through years of practice in an ashram or monastery but as easily as a burger at their Tuesday night yoga class, if that, intact. Everyone has an opinion, and the lowest common denominator voices are deafening.
I love to watch the Australian show ‘Who do you think you are?’ which consistently shows the wonder & profundity people experience when they become aware of the details of the lives, struggles & suffering of their ancestors. This upsets the default of modernity, which has convinced us that all that came before us were largely ignorant & meaningless, and we are somehow infinitely smarter. We have new religion! Flat, scientific, reductionist , dualistic, capitalist materialism. Like if we don’t call it a religion we won’t notice it’s there – around us, circumscribing us, just as religion did, all the time. Such experts we are at denial & self-deception.
How quickly, foolishly & disrespectfully we have thrown away our inheritance as if it were nothing. The perennial tradition is little different to the Amazon forest or our own great-grandparents in that way. No, we can reinvent the wheel with our deep spiritual awareness at that Tuesday night class in whatever school of yoga has been fashioned to be fashionable this year. Forget that the yoga itself comes from that tradition.
These smarty-pants critics like Christopher Hitchins, king of the unhappy, consumer meat-machine identities, more easily indoctrinated by their shallow education & media than by religion, think they are radical & intelligent, despite clearly knowing themselves the failure & corruption in what they defend (!). And yet their position is nothing but today’s bandwagon, commonplace, with all the courage of the mediocre.
Spirituality is about evolution and truth, intelligence is only a tool – real intelligence is nothing without depth. If people were validated to really take the time & space to understand to the point of actually deeply practicing the advice of someone like the Buddha or the Rishis, rather than relying on tangential mudslinging at the failings of those braver than themselves who at least tried to understand (yet perhaps lacked the guidance to not get their risk tragically wrong), they might discover by far the most radical & intelligent ideas & technologies ever propagated. Forget iphones – they are just playing with clay – what about the player!?
The religions were founded saying the same truths in different ways but have survived with differing levels of purity & clarity. Islam, like Judaism, tribally compromised universality from the outset, with as we can see tragic results, while Christianity lost most of its credibility to historical power distortions. That still does not mean that the truly curious soul cannot find more there than modernity has boastfully come up with. This, in case anyone is listening, I know. Those who lack that curiosity or courage to discover their essence have no right or credibility to call for throwing them out. So regardless of how many stupid things are done ‘in their name’, throwing them out is done ‘in their name’ rather than what they actually are, in just the same way.
Enlightenment is rare – entire cultures do not need to become enlightened, as the enlightened one can carry many on his back in the subtle realms. The culture only needs to recognize & respect what it is to maintain the conditions for it to happen. Tell a Westerner that the Balinese seem like the happiest people on earth because they make offerings to ‘the Gods’ daily, and they will attack you simply because they cannot compute such an idea – but I know it is true, and how else to explain it? Lose the Dharma from this world, say the Tibetan Buddhists, and all may be lost for a long time. Not a literal story necessarily, but a powerful metaphor, the kind that today’s scared flatlanders would strike flat.
In discovering religion/spirituality’s distilled essence still lies the highest potential for the human race, to be tossed out, like the proverbial baby with the bathwater, at great peril. Sad & amusing as I say to live in a time so utterly wrong-headed – but strangely, as always in the higher dimensions, exactly as it must be.