Weather and numbers

On the road home.

This month, the weather has been more or less normal for this time of the year. That is, what was normal for the last 20 years, not last winter, and not the beginning of this. The temperature has some days been above the freezing point, and even the cold nights have barely been below -10 degrees Celsius.

Let me say a few words about temperatures here.  The Celsius scale of temperatures has its zero at the freezing point of freshwater near sea level. Unlike, say, Fahrenheit which has zero at the temperature of a deep freezer or something.  Celsius also has the boiling point of water at 100 degrees. That means we have nice, small numbers for the temperatures that actual humans actually meet in everyday life.  In contrast, the Kelvin scale starts at the point of absolute zero, where not a molecule moves. This may be useful to a few scientists, but utterly irrelevant to the remaining 7 billion people or so.  Sometimes something really is such a stroke of genius that it cannot be improved on even if you desperately want to.

Take for instance the way we measure time, at least on a small scale.  The day and night are together 24 hours, a number that can be divided in a lot of ways but is still nice and small. At the time of the equinoxes, the day and night is each 12 hours, which is also the most divisible number anywhere near its range.  This makes it easy to think in hours. But it does not stop there.

Each hour is made up of 60 minues. This is another super-divisible number, by far the most slicable anywhere near it.  I believe we got this from the Babylonians, who again inherited it from the Sumerians, which is about as far as we can trace that root of our civilization. It is still unrivaled. There have been attempts to introduce a 100-minute hour, but it is just not as practical. Sure, it would be better for arithmetic, but in practice it is more useful to be able to divide the hour into nice chunks.

The seconds? They correspond approximately to the heartbeat of a grown man at rest.  And from there on we have these super-divisible units all the way up to the length of the day.  Some things just can’t be improved on. Or if they can, it takes a genius the likes of which the world does not see every millennium.

The months, on the other hand, need work. It is bad enough that the year is not 360 days, we can blame God for that. I suppose certain other things took priority, like not having the planet overheating.  (To have the same length of day but only 360 days, we would have to circle the sun a little closer.) Now, this I can live with. But the Romans messed things up further by robbing February to add to other months they liked better.  I guess it is a bit late to reverse that?

For instance, we just had 31 days in December, and now we have 31 days in January as well! Is that really necessary? I would be perfectly willing to have 29 days in February if I could get by with only 30 in January.  Well, anyway, as I said, it’s a bit late now. But if we colonize Mars, we should definitely do better.  Of course, Mars does not have a slow moon like ours at all, so the concept of months (originally derived from “moon”) may not apply.

The moon certainly applies here. I have noticed that the weather is almost always clear during the full moon here on Norway’s south coast.  But right now there is barely any moon at all here. Your moon may vary, as may your weather. I read that near the North Pole, the sea is two degrees warmer than it has been for the last 2000 years. (They can measure this by the sediments.) Two degrees Celsius, that is. Of course.

City of Heroes, January 2011

The vaguely humanoid yellow light source standing over the unconscious Nazis is Sun’s Bright Hand, my “Incarnate” in City of Heroes.

I still play City of Heroes regularly, but I don’t write much about it anymore. This is basically because I am a bit ashamed of playing computer games at my age and my current aspiration. It is a bit like people who watch porn don’t usually blog about it, and people who pick their nose don’t usually blog about it, and people who don’t wash their hands after going to the loo don’t blog about it… OK, that may be stretching it, since they are probably not aware of being abnormal and shameful. But then, neither was I.

In any case, City of Heroes is probably still the “goodest” of the big online games. By that I don’t mean the best, although that could quite possibly also be true. I mean the one with most goodness as opposed to evil. Last year the game added the possibility for heroes to gradually turn into vigilantes and then into villains, but at the same time a corresponding option was given to villains, and this seems to have become more popular than the opposite. I especially notice many masterminds having come to the side of justice lately.

Technically, the game has added a new level of high-resolution graphics for those who have expensive video cards in their computers.  I don’t use this, so cannot really comment on it. The new Praetorian zones are quite shiny, and there is a project for shinying up older zones over the next year. It is not a priority for me, of course.  The graphics have been pretty realistic from the start, apart from the characters of course.

The gameplay has improved steadily, especially after NCSoft bought the game from Cryptic Studios.  A unique feature is “Mission Architect”, which lets players create their own missions (quests) and story arcs (series of quests) and share them with everyone. This unleashed a torrent of creativity. Unfortunately, some of this creativity went into designing missions that gave more reward for less work than ordinary gameplay, much more in the beginning. For this reason, Mission Architect has been repeatedly nerfed (made weaker), and now gives approximately 75% of the experience points and influence (the currency of the game) compared to ordinary gameplay. But for those who have seen it all in the game, there are hundreds if not thousands of new stories to play through. There are also missions that are either easier or harder than usual.

One seemingly small change to the game is that you can now select the color of all ordinary powers. This may not sound like much, but many superhero fans made their own heroes in childhood and have very specific ideas of how they look.  For instance you can now create the equivalent of the Green Lantern corps.  (You are of course not allowed to actually reproduce copyrighted characters. What I mean is that you can have your own superhero group based on a particular color, with matching uniforms and powers.)

The game took a new direction with the release of the Going Rogue expansion pack. This was the one that made it possible to change moral alignment, but it did much more. It introduced a third game world, but it also unlocked the Incarnate system, which is where the game is headed now.

In the original lore of the game, there were only two incarnates: Statesman and the villain Recluse.  Having been infused with the power formerly used by the “gods” of Olympos, their powers were greater than other superhumans. But that is now about to change, as the same power is very slowly becoming available to other heroes as well.  (The regular reader of my blog will probably understand my interest in this “divinization” from a symbolic point of view.)

While unlocking the Incarnate potential does require the Going Rogue expansion pack, that is only the beginning of the beginning.  There is a series of quests one must go through in order to actually unlock the first Incarnate slot and begin earning Incarnate shards.  This is a kind of salvage which is earned by completing level 50 missions and occasionally just randomly given from defeating level 50+ villains.  (50 is the highest level in this game, and there is no plan to change this.) New incarnate abilities are added to the game with each new “issue”, an upgrade of the game with new features approximately three times a year. At the current speed, it will take numerous years to introduce all the Incarnate abilities, and the time between each new issue can be used to complete the requirements for actually using that new ability.

In other words, the demi-divinization of heroes is a process that takes several years of real time.  Surpassing their previous boundaries is a slow process, almost unnoticeable, and you cannot become a master of everything, certainly not at once. You have to decide how you want to develop: Will you shore up your weaknesses, or make your strengths even stronger?

While this is the major current of the game, there are also smaller events. For instance, from around midwinter and out January there is a Winter Event, and from around Valentine’s Day onward there is Spring Fling. This weekend is one of the few Double XP weekends in the year, when casual gamers come online in droves to get double experience points and influence.  At random intervals, but usually several times a day, there are also zone events that only appear in one part of the city and only lasts for about half an hour:  Rikti (alien) invasion, Zombie invasion, or Supernatural invasions. When these happen, heroes band together with whoever the find to fend off the attack. Being defeated during such an invasion does not lead to experience debt.

So there is basically always something going on in City of Heroes.  But then again, there is always something going on in real life as well, so there is only so much I can experience of this game.  Your real life may vary, in which case you may want to give it a try.  There are free trial accounts to be had at their website.

I honestly have no idea how long I will be playing it myself.  So many things in my life just gradually fall away over the years, and I suppose if I live long enough, this is going to fall by the wayside too. But as of January 2011, I still play CoH every week. Coming from me, that is a kind of recommendation.

End of Moore’s Law?

A little known force in the movement from desktop to laptops:  Little sisters pulling the plug on their brother’s computer.  Laptops have batteries and are therefore more sister-proof…

Actually, Gordon Moore only predicted that the optimal density of transistors on integrated circuits would double every two years. This has later been extended by pundits writing about the computer industry, to the currently most known form, that computers of the same price become twice as powerful over the course of 18 months.

For a long time, this seemed to hold true. Even I was starting to take it for granted. But it seems that this time is over now – either that, or we are simply in an outlier on the graph of performance.

I bought my current main computer in November 2007, meaning it is now well over 3 years ago.  I gave roughly kr 10 000 for it, or $2 000. Today I checked the same online store for the model that fills the same niche today. It should be either a quarter of the price or four times as powerful, but that is not the case. It costs around kr 6 000, two thirds of what it did three years ago. It has two cores running at 3 GHz, while mine has four cores running at 2.4 GHz. In other words, the computing power is less for some tasks and around the same for others. The hard disk capacity and memory are the same.

You do in fact get more for the money than three years ago, but this may to some extent be due to the lower dollar. It is if anything charitable to say that you get a computer for two thirds of what you paid three years ago.

Of course, this may be because the “center of gravity” of computing has moved. Traditional desktop computers such as this are no longer part of the core market, which consists of laptops, netbooks, game consoles and handheld devices. Desktop computers are not quite a fringe market yet, but they are moving gradually toward the sidelines, I guess.

Still, there is a pretty big difference between $500 and $1500. Or at least it certainly feels like a big difference.  There is a kind of psychological limit somewhere in between those, probably around $999.

But as I mentioned in an earlier post on this topic, there may not be much need for Moore’s Law anymore.  Consumers and offices don’t need more powerful computers. Well, there are some teenagers with old laptops around still, I hear. ^_^ But what I mean is that they don’t need more powerful computers than the one I have, or indeed even that much.  It would still be nice if they could get those cheaply, but that is not what drove advances in computer technology in the past. There was a race to produce faster and better computers, and as a side effect you could buy the old ones cheap. Now there is no such forward drive.

I guess the age of the datapad is almost upon us. It is already common to store data in the “cloud” of server on the Internet, for instance in the form of Gmail. Computing is still mostly done locally, but this may be next. For instance, Opera Mini, a free browser for smartphones, does part of its processing on Opera’s servers. And online games have of course already been doing part of the processing on their servers. All these are things that are becoming gradually more common.

But the end of the rise of the personal computer does influence some businesses. For instance the Norwegian gaming company Funcom, whichreleased their massive multiplayer game Age of Conan with hardware requirements that were not standard even here in Norway at the time. Normally this particular problem would fix itself, as ordinary gamers would grow into the high specifications next time they bought a new computer. Computers don’t last forever, after all. But in the meantime, “Moore’s Law” has been braking and may be stopping completely in this market. And of course the economic crisis in the first world has also led people to not replace their computers until broken, if even then. So the timing was about as bad as could be.  (Not that this is a great loss, for the game has a rather evil atmosphere. The only commendable thing about it is that it demonstrates just how detailed a game can be. You should not stay in there though, or evil may fester in your soul. Of course, that may not make much difference to some people, but those people are probably not reading the Chaos Node.)

Well, that should be enough for today. ^_^

What the Hell am I doing?

“What do you think about this amount?” -I think it is eerily similar to my amount of superhero comics before I left the original Chaos Node.

I stopped by my comic book dealer (who also happens to be the used book store in Kristiansand). I fetched the two issues of Savage Dragon that were lying for me, and asked him to discontinue my subscription. I have quit the other comic book series as they closed down (and usually came back with a different name and different artists, but without me buying them). But this Larsen fellow just keeps ticking like the energizer bunny, it seems. So I gave up and told the shop to just cut it.

“I no longer see the point in reading about people bashing their heads with cars” I explained. “You should have realized that long ago” said the shopkeeper. “Why didn’t you read something more edifying?”

Why the Hell not? thought I, and as always when I use that phrase, I mean it in its religious sense. The shopkeeper continued talking about a local soccer hero who recently died at a fairly old age, and was praised by the local newspaper for soccer being his life until the very last. “Running after a ball is natural when you are a small kid, as long as it is just one of several games you play. But even then, something is wrong if soccer is all you play. And to keep being hung up on this for the rest of your life??”

Indeed. If some other person had been forced to spend his whole life doing nothing but soccer, seeing nothing but soccer, talking about nothing but soccer, wouldn’t he be in Hell? Not because soccer is omg so wrong, but because of the confinement and the stagnation – being essentially trapped in a small corner of a normal childhood for the rest of the life.

Ever since I read Ryuho Okawa’s view of Hell as something humans create rather than something God creates for them, it has seemed obvious to me that people are not actually thrown screaming and protesting into Hell by  hard-faced angels on the command of an angry God. Rather, Hell is something we gravitate toward. There is, so to speak, a mutual attraction between the sinner and his Hell.  Just recently I saw Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz imply something similar in his book The Thirteen Petalled Rose, and a quote from Jennifer Upton’s Dark Way to Paradise about Dante’s Divine Comedy also implying the same thing. Perhaps I am just selectively reading people who tell me what I want to hear, although this is a bit strange when I have not heard about them before. In any case, back to my comic books.

The difference between me and the soccer hero, apart from me not being a hero at all, is that I have only been partially imprisoned in a corner of my childhood.  I have tried to think about this. I have spent thousands on superhero comic books during my adult life, until my late 40es. Why the Hell did it not fall away before? It is after all not a biological urge… one can understand single men who buy porn (although I would think a couple porn mags should be enough for a lifetime, I mean, how many fetishes does one person have? – but what do I know.) Or even women who buy cook books. The body has its urges. But the urge to have cars thrown on you by angry supervillains is probably not one of them.

Looking back, I wonder if this did not start fading away around the time I wrote the series of gray entries about The Next Big Thing. At this point, I saw superhero comics as a symbol, an upwelling from the collective subconscious of the expectation that a new type of human was about to replace ordinary humanity. While the real “human version 3” will probably not be able to fly by willpower or shoot energy beams for their eyes, their thinking will be as far removed from that of current humans as superpowers would be from our physical abilities.

So as long as I remained ignorant, I remained enslaved. Reading superhero comics was in a certain sense a meaningful impulse, diverted into a symbolic form that is not exactly counterproductive, but unproductive.

In a similar way, I believe, the attraction of computer games is that they allow us to quickly do what we feel we want to be doing but cannot. In my case, guiding people to prosperity, peace of mind and lasting happiness (The Sims 2 and 3), or protecting the innocent from evil (City of Heroes). Unless I learn how to actually do these things in real life, I will probably remain attracted to these games until I die… and quite possibly beyond.

That is a chilling thought, right? But now you have to excuse me, the Double XP Weekend has begun in City of Heroes. It is time for Bright Hand of the Sun to protect his fellow heroes from the forces of Darkness!

Forum trolls

One way to keep the level of online aggression down is to make the place more girlfriendly. But that is not always an option.

In the online world, there is an unpleasant and common thing called “forum trolls”. These are people who take part in discussions in order to enrage others. In the wider sense, any discussion forum could have trolls, even mailing lists and of course good old Usenet, for those who remember that. Blog comment sections are not spared either, although the blog authors usually clean up the mess when they check in.

What is the cause of this phenomenon, and what can we do to diminish it? Clearly most people would like to see less or none of it. Right?

Here is an article by Clay Shirky in Harward Business Review: Cleaning Up Online Conversation. He argues that there are mainly two factors that promotes trolling: Size (large chance of being seen) and anonymity (small change of having it come back to bite you).  By making forums more specific, encouraging identity, and giving ordinary users the power to bury the idiot comments, the problem can be greatly diminished. Examples of successful forums are given.

I would add that one alternative is to attract a different audience. For instance, nobody could start a flame war on the Project Meditation forum. The regulars and all but the greenest of visitors belong to the five-dimensional Realm of the Good or above. If you behave like an asshat, they will behave like an arhat in return. They will pity you and try to help you. This is because of the big difference in the level of understanding and purpose. A teacher will not quarrel with a grade school pupil, and a doctor will not quarrel with a patient. People whose purpose in life is to be healers of souls, will not be enraged when they see sick souls.

If a place is clean and well lit, roaches are unlikely to be much of a problem. Even should they show up, they cannot stay in such a place.

Of course, this is not really an option for most forums on the Internet. Yet. But when we have built a civilization that can stand the test of time, a Golden Age, a New Enlightenment, then perhaps this will be the rule. Until then, we shall have to just extend the light what little we can, each of us seeking to shine brightly for the benefit of all around us.

Notes to self?

Texting and mailing someone else is a normal way of communication, but what about mailing yourself?  Not quite normal, I suspect.

A few months ago, I dreamed that I spent some time with an online friend (who I have never met in the flesh).  During the time we spent together, he several times wrote something on a small handheld device.  He explained casually that these were messages to himself.  Evidently he also checked the messages from himself regularly – my impression is that he did this at the same time he wrote new ones, several times an hour.

In waking life, I am the one who mails myself.  But I don’t do it often.  Sometimes I send a message from my work account to my private Gmail account to remind myself of something I should do at home, rather than keep thinking of it through the workday.  Which would probably not be enough, since I tend to forget work when I walk out the door. Besides, it would distract me while I was there.  So better to send a mail to my home self.  Occasionally it is the other way around. And today I sent a mail to myself from my smart phone on the bus.  I sent it from the Gmail account to the account, which also shows up in my inbox after some minutes.

But I do this a few times a month at most, not a few times an hour. Perhaps I should do it more, though.

In a manner of speaking, some of the entries here are notes to myself. I write a few private ones, and there are some drafts I don’t seem to ever get around to publishing, so I guess those are exclusively notes to myself. But even those I share with others may also be of interest for my future self, if any. At least many of my past entries have been of interest to my later self.

And yet the main reason I switched to WordPress was that reading my past entries started eating up my time.  There was like 10 past entries for each day, and I had gotten into the habit of reading them all. At this point, reading my past entries took more time than writing a new one. Sometimes much of the evening. Now I only rarely see them at all. That may be a bit little again.

And there is even a religious dimension to this. In Christianity (and presumably Judaism) there is an exhortation in the Psalms to not forget God’s acts of kindness toward us.  That is easy to forget in our personal life.  For instance, when I have some kind of sickness or pain or disturbance of the body, I think about it; but once that disappears, I forget that it was ever there, unless I have written it down, and unless it was a huge disturbance in my life.

For instance, today I have some tenderness and pain in the skin on my right foot. (There is no visible swelling or discoloration though.) While talking to God, I mentioned this but added that there was no need to do anything spectacular, if it was as harmless as it seemed.  “But if it were to go away, I’d be grateful… wait, no. I probably wouldn’t.  I would probably forget the whole thing, unless there is some way for me to remind my future self of it.”


I want to hear about heaven and things like that, too. That’s how I end up with books like this one.

“The physical world in which we live, the objectively observed universe around us, is only a part of an inconceivably vast system of worlds. Most of these worlds are spiritual in their essence; they are of a different order from our known world. Which does not necessarily mean that they exist somewhere else, but means rather that they exist in different dimensions of being.”

That certainly sounds like something I could have said. But I did not, at least not as grandly and beautifully as Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz. In the opening paragraph of his book The Thirteen Petalled Rose, Rabbi Steinsaltz plagiarizes me years before I even started thinking about these things in a non-fiction way.  (I have had an overwhelming urge to write fiction about this great chain of worlds since I was in my 20es, and fought bravely to resist it, which was probably a good thing in that age of confusion.)

I have still only read a couple chapters.  Some of his thoughts are alien in detail, based as they are on the Jewish Kabbalah. I am not sure I am ever going to agree with him in all details.  But in the grand scope, it rings eerily true.  Not just the large number of worlds, but also the way human use of free will have repercussions running up and down the chain of being.

Somewhere here I should throw in the quote by T’ien-t’ai Chih-i: “One thought leads to 3000 worlds” (or “There are 3000 worlds in one moment of thought”). Of course, I have not actually been to 3000 worlds. Well, perhaps in my dreams… ^_^

Since the definition of a lower world is one we create, and a higher world one that creates us, it seems counter-intuitive that our actions also make their way several worlds up from here.  However, the muse in my head that is currently planning yet another fiction on the topic, gave my fictional character the following example:

Two men are playing chess.  The chess board is a lower world, limited in size and scope and complexity compared to the world that created it. And yet what happens on the chess board has some effect on the world in which the players live. Depending on who they are, the news of their chess match might even be followed by people all over the world, thronging out other news and so slightly changing the flow of history.  Of course this change is still small compared to the lower world:  If the chess pieces were sentient, they would remember a world ravaged by war, beyond any world wars our world has ever seen, a costly victory and an utter defeat.  Yet objectively speaking, the effects on the world above theirs is greater, because that world is that much more real.

I want to add something else, that I have also thought about in this connection: Higher worlds appear abstract to us, and this planet the most concrete of anything imaginable; but a higher world is at least as concrete to those living in it, and possibly more so in absolute terms. Huston Smith mentioned this in his introduction to The Transcendent Unity of Religions, but that is not quite the first time it has appeared to me, I think. I am not sure however whether I have heard it from outside or inside me at first. Now that I am in contact with people, on the Net or through books, who also think about such things, it is hard to tell apart. I guess this has its own risks.  Still, I can’t help it, I want to hear about Heaven and such things too!

Depth of meditation

Is that a box of Holosync CDs? We live in an age where advanced technology is sometimes indistinguishable from magic, but is it black magic or white magic? Is it contrary to first principles, or working along with them?

I revisited the Holosync Demo tonight. Back when Gaia – formerly Zaadz – was still alive but oh so slowly changing into a pure spam machine, they sent out a semi-advertising recommendation for this demo. They both belonged to the same “commercial New Age” arena. Gaia went under, Holosync is still thriving, and still spamming all kinds of products for their friends. Products you won’t need if their own product does what it says.

Be that as it may, I was reminded once again of their claim that the binaural technology can “meditate you”, that it can make you enter into a state of meditation deeper than that of an accomplished Zen monk. As measured by EEG waves, that is actually true.  If you close your eyes, listen to their soundscape and go with the flow, you should eventually end up with a huge proportion of delta waves in your brain, which is nearly impossible to achieve through meditation.  Or indeed in any other way except deep sleep.

It is also generally true that people who have meditated for many years and mastered advanced techniques, are able to slow down their brain waves to a deeper level than beginners.  Usually you can only reach alpha waves the first years, but eventually you can master techniques that produce theta waves, which are rarely dominant in waking states (although they appear partially – we rarely ever have one frequency completely filling the whole skull).

Now, the fallacy is to think that slow brain waves are the goal or purpose of meditation.  This may be the case in some scientific studies, but not in the established schools of meditation.  Usually meditation is part of a religious practice. Regular meditation is meant to transform the personality. And the whole “regular” thing and the patience involved is essential. It is a form of self discipline.  To bypass this is to render the whole exercise meaningless. It is like running marathon on a motorbike.  Sure, you get to the goal faster, but that was not the point!

There are various benefits, particularly to the health, of brainwave entrainment. I am still positive to it and I still use it (mostly LifeFlow now). But it does not meditate you.  And as I’ve said before, for religious meditation I have found it better to avoid brainwave entrainment. Your religion may vary, if any.  But the depth of meditation spiritually speaking is a different quality than mere brain waves.

Such is the world we live in, that quality is often reduced to quantity. I love living in this time and age, but in that regard it really is a “Kali Yuga”, an age of degradation, a barbarian age, an age of spiritual death. Love is reduced to hormones and hope to medical reforms. But such a thinking hurts the human soul. Flee while you can. The reduction of wholeness to parts is the essence of death, as the Buddha said in his last words:  “All things that are made of parts will come apart. Strive diligently!”

Esoterism and exoterism

Of course, if I see the Light and don’t live a great life of love and wisdom, it is worse than nothing. And if you have to rely on books and the words of others, but you use that knowledge to live a great life, then you are much better off.

In all large religions, there are two main groups of followers. One sees religion in much the same way as any other cultural or social event. They go to the church, mosque, temple or synagogue in much the same frame of mind as they would go to a theater, a concert, a movie or a sports event.  They may be fanatic about their religion, but then in much the same way as British soccer hooligan attack supporters of opposing teams with stones and beer bottles.

These camp followers are generally the first to leave when religion loses its influence in society. I will not discuss them in further detail today. Rather let us look at those who remain:  Those who take their religion personally and seriously.  (Although most have other interests too.)

The personally religious again fall into two categories, one large and one small. The large group is what we call exoteric.  In a less precise but more understandable word, we could say “external” religion.  They rely on ritual and dogma as the highest expression of their religion.

Exoteric knowledge is learned the same way as any factual knowledge. To make this easier to understand, imagine that you live in another country and you learn the names of all major cities in Belgium, and where they lie on the map, and their relative sizes.  This knowledge can be learned and taught without ever setting foot in Belgium.  In the same way, exoteric religion can be transmitted without personal experience.

That is not to say that an exoteric religious person never has any religious experience that transcends what you would experience reading a dictionary. Far from it, such experiences are quite common.  But they are vague, haphazard, and play no large role in their life. In fact, exoteric religion usually warns against any altered states of consciousness. And while it does encourage ethical behavior, it is such as can be achieved by training and strength of will. It is not recommended to be transformed into something utterly different from an ordinary human. On the contrary, such a thing is seen as dangerous.  (Which it often is, of course.  Insane people go through this regularly, and are probably rather more common in society than esoterists.)

The exoteric believer gains strength from ritual and dogma.  If he cannot perform his rituals, his religion begins to fade from his mind, and this makes him feel bad. (To his credit!)  Likewise if someone manages to cause doubt in his mind about a dogma, it feels as if his religion is falling apart for him. Some atheists take a perverse pleasure in seeking out believers and dissing their dogma. The predictable reaction of the exoteric believer is to put his fingers in his ears and chant LA LA LA LA I CAN’T HEAR YOU LA LA LA, figuratively if not literally, and this is prime entertainment to some people. Of course there are also atheists who don’t like to cause mental suffering in others, but since you generally don’t hear much from them, it is perfectly reasonable for the believer to think that all atheists thrive on suffering.  It is not actually true however.

But there are also esoteric Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and so on. In each case, these are a minority. It seems to be a personality type, and often asserts itself early in life. The esoteric person often has gone through a brief period as exoteric, but found the need to go beyond this traditional view.

To the esoterist, ritual and dogma point toward something else.  If you point at the moon, a man will look at the moon, but a cat will look at your finger. (And likely swipe at it, at that.) The esoterist does not worship his religion, but rather that which his religion points toward:  The Absolute, the Tao that cannot be spoken, the God who cannot be named, who lives in a Light into which no one can enter, whom no man has seen or can see. And yet, despite being unspeakably alien and remote, the One resides in some way in the depth of our soul, at our deepest core.

This is blasphemy to the exoterist.  As far as he is concerned, the psychic being that resides in his body is himself, the ego, and nothing else (if all goes well – there may be the occasional demonic incursion if you live in a culture that accepts such things.) What he hears the esoterist say is “I am God”, which of course is a pretty good reason to kill the blasphemer on the spot. And of course, if you truly are convinced that you are ego all the way down, then the notion that any of this is divine is utter blasphemy, no doubt about it.

The esoterist has a kind of sense – the eye of the heart, it is often called – that lets him directly perceive truth.  He does not arrive at it by logic, but his love for truth and the One Truth which is the wellspring of all truth is such that he experiences it directly, as a kind of unity, much like your senses perceive your body as being one with you.

There are among esoterists again two sorts.  The most rare, and it is exceedingly rare indeed, is he who can perceive Truth directly with no assistance except the Divine itself. He is the one who has the open eye of the heart. There is no limit to what he may learn, except his lifespan and the direction of his effort.  For Truth is limitless, so even the greatest adept is unlikely to explore it all in a lifetime!

When the esoteric adept tries to share the truth he has acquired this way, he will tend to try to explain it logically. For truth is logical – it is not true because it is logical, but logical because it is true. But this is generally seen as an invitation to debate, for there are many who are masters of logic. But if your first premises are wrong, then no amount of logic will make your conclusions right.  The seeing cannot compromise with the blind in a discussion of what he has seen.

At his point the esoteric adept will normally say something like “This is not open to debate. This is the truth, and it is your loss if you don’t accept it. The presence of the blind will not cause the sun to stop shining.”

The exoterist will predictably be offended. He will see the other as arrogant, blasphemous or crazy.  And reasonably so: At any time, there is no lack of actual insane people claiming to be sent by the Master of Orion to warn us that the Negroes will kill us all, or Dick Cheney is the Antichrist, or Hitler will return with a fleet of flying saucers. And they are absolutely certain of this and need no proof. It is the truth, they have seen it, and are sharing it out of the goodness of their heart.  How exactly is that different?

But I skipped a group here. What about the majority of the minority? What about the esoterists who cannot just stare at Truth and see it as it is? These are those who, when they hear the Truth, recognize it. Their mode of perception is more like hearing than seeing, I guess.  When they hear Truth, it echoes in their heart, like a memory that awakens.  And once it awakens, it returns to life with great strength, which surpasses doubt.  It is as if they somehow knew this all before they were born, and only needed to be reminded of it.

These are what we may call disciples. The Truth they recognize is not something they just learn, like cities in Belgium. It is like a memory of having been there. They can no more doubt it than they can doubt the ground they are walking on or the air they breathe. And the Truth sets them free. They become able to see far-reaching consequences that are not obvious to others. They see deeply into the future or into the human heart. They have gained something that ordinary people are lacking.  There is a conviction and a light in their eyes, and they become able to help others.

After these again come the theologians, years later, transcribing the truth into ritual and dogma.  And so a new branch of religion has been born, and go on its merry way, perhaps one day becoming powerful enough to persecute the others.  Until another visionary appears…


Well, that was not as exact and as lucid as I wanted it to be.  But I think it may serve as an introduction, to see whether this might interest you at all. As always, I am more of a spiritual tourist than a teacher, so before risking your soul, be sure to find a more reliable source.  Well, unless you have one in your own heart, I suppose.

Hypocrite? Me?

“Before I knew it, my aim of bringing happiness to everyone changed into one of satisfying myself.” Well, spiritual self-satisfaction in this case, but even so…

Yesterday when I came home from work, I found a package from What could it be? I tend to forget such things over the course of the time it takes to ship it all the way from the USA. This time it was indeed The Transcendent Unity of Religions by Frithjof Schuon.

“Wouldn’t it be better for you to advance within your own religion?” asked the voice in my heart. Who needs a spouse when you have voices like that? It is presumably the voice of God, or something in that direction. Or perhaps the voice of reason, I find these hard to tell apart.

Anyway, you have to admit that this hit the bullseye.  Opening the book, it becomes clear (as I had already suspected) that the transcendent unity means that the different religions come from the same source, kind of like a spectrum from a prism. Each color of the spectrum follows its inner nature and takes its own path, but they are all light, and if we could somehow pass through the prism we would find them all to be one. Well, that is not his words, that is just the impression I get. But it is probably a correct impression of what Schuon teaches, in a rough simile.

Now, after this episode, you’d think I’d act accordingly. But no. I put the book in my bag, and today I pulled it out on the bus. Now, there is nothing evil as such about reading religious books on the bus, especially here in Scandinavia where most people are atheists and think you’re crazy (and possibly dangerous) if you take religion somewhat seriously. But even so, would I have done the same if it was something more shameful, like for instance the latest Savage Dragon comic book?

(I used to subscribe to a large number of comic books, now Savage Dragon is the only one left, and that mainly because I am too lazy to discontinue my subscription. Most comic books stop at some point, and restart under a slightly different name, but Larsen just keeps ticking like an energizer bunny. Anyway, that’s beside the point. The point is that if I wanted to give people a realistic impression of me, I have read a hundred times more comics than deep spiritual books in my lifetime. Perhaps a thousand times more, I am not sure.  Probably somewhere between those.)

I’m not exactly a hypocrite, I just don’t mind if people think too highly of me. Why does that not upset me at least as much as if they think too lowly of me?

So I may have these noble motives. I want to radiate light and love and hope and courage to people around me, or who read my journal. That is cute. But it does not count and it does not work unless it is true all the way through. Unless it comes from me actually being that transparent, so the light of the inner sun shines through.

I’m not really that transparent yet. I’m not really that kind of inspiring person I want to be.  Well, I’m quite happy and such, but that’s not really something I have deserved.  And I cannot really prove that it comes from my religion rather than, say, from playing computer games an hour or two each day as I also do.  I may feel pretty sure it is the religion, but if so, wouldn’t I spend more time on it and less on the imaginary little people inside my computer?