In other words

Screenshot anime Dororon

“Dream about Heaven” – individual bliss or Divine Nature?

The renunciation of the contemplative does not at all have the aim of accumulating merits for the sake of individual bliss; it serves to put the soul, by what one might call radical measures, into the most favorable possible state for realizing its own infinite Essence.” – Frithjof Schuon,¬†Prayer Fashions Man.

This sounds eerily familiar. Didn’t I try (and perhaps fail) to express some of the same in my entry last month, “Ascesis“? I think I said entirely too much, while Schuon may lean in the other direction. He condenses things into crystal clarity, but it also has some of the diamond’s hardness. Not easily chewed and digested.

And no, I haven’t read this book before. But it is not like we are the first two to think of this, I am sure.

“Accumulating merits for the sake of individual bliss” – this is what modern atheists call “pie in the sky when you die”. Rack up bonus points in Heaven so you can get a good seat, by doing good but unpleasant things and not doing pleasant things that you want to do. Then sit and watch the idiots who failed to rack up bonus points, as you look down on them in eternity with a big grin.

But the reality of a Christian (or another practitioner) is something entirely different. Life is hard enough without fulfilling the fantasies of atheist stereotypes. It may be that we start out with a desire for individual bliss, or at least (in my case) a desire to escape Hell. We all have to start somewhere. And it may be that I would renounce far more than I do, if I had some kind of tally of divine favor points (like in the RPG Darklands, which was loosely based on Catholic Germany of the late middle ages, and where you spent Divine Favor by invoking saints for miracles, then rebuilt your divine favor by spending time in prayer or going to Mass.)

But the way I see it, giving up this or that is not a matter of earning points, it is a matter of taking out the trash first, then usable but obsolete stuff to make room for something better. Not just something better for me as this bag of flesh, but for everyone, everywhere, at all times. In the last instance Divine nature, but at least as an intermediate step, the Human Operating System version 3. It seems Schuon had it too, no big surprise there.

“He who knows”

Screenshot anime Kannagi

“I have a strong sense for the supernatural”. This may be a good thing if you run into the right supernaturals, but even then it is far from enough.

He who ‘knows’ theoretically does indeed enjoy metaphysical certitude, but such certitude does not yet penetrate his whole being; it is as if, instead of believing a description, one saw the object described, but without the sight of it implying either a detailed knowledge or a possession of the object” – Frithjof Schuon, Prayer Fashions Man.

I’ve recently read a bit in this small but dense book by the hero of Perennial Wisdom. It is fascinating to me to see how much of what he writes says the same things that I struggle to express, and says it with crystal clarity. Unfortunately, these crystals are very hard or dense or impenetrable, so for the common man it is not easy to understand Schuon at all. At best one will find a few sentences here and there that stand out. But practice helps, and especially reading more accessible literature on the same topics.

If you knew me, you would see why I think Schuon writes about me and people like me in this particular paragraph. I hope I make no pretense to being a spiritual teacher, for such a person needs to BE what he teaches, whereas I am like a tourist or at best an immigrant in a new country, writing home to tell what I SEE.

For some reason I was given the grace to see various truths. Well, we can specify it a bit more than that: Because of my pure love for truth, I was allowed to see it. You know one of the most famous sayings by Jesus Christ: “Blessed are the pure of heart, for they shall see God.” In the same way, despite being more a scientific mind than a religious one, I developed a pure love for Truth or Wisdom; this is already a grace, though from the outside it looks like virtue. But there was in this “virtue” no effort, but a pull toward the pure beauty of Wisdom, which is more radiant than the full moon rising on a dark night.

At the time, my love was pure, for I was attracted to Truth itself, not knowing that it would also bring me great joys. This is analogous to an innocent young person’s first love, who is unaware of the pleasures of lovemaking, but is still filled with a longing for the other person and a wish to see and be with the beloved. Once you know by experience what awaits you should you be received by the one you love, it is almost impossible to be that selfless ever again. At some layer of your mind you will always calculate with a reward, even if you would have loved the person without it.

In this way, I can no longer lay claim to the pure love for Truth, Knowledge and Wisdom that was my greatest grace. But I did see enough to enjoy certitude, as Schuon puts it. You must understand that when Schuon says “theoretically” here, he does not refer to someone who simply learn things by rote from a book. I did indeed learn from books to some extent, but by resonance rather than memorization. For the Knowledge we talk about here is of a higher order, it is Knowledge of the heart.

Even this Knowledge, however, is flat until lived. It remains just an image. To gain that extra dimension that makes it fully real, it must become flesh. Another famous phrase in Christianity – perhaps the core message of the religion – is that “the Word became flesh”. This is also in a certain sense an example for us. Until the Truth becomes flesh, becomes embodied, becomes lived life, it is incomplete, shallow, flat.

And that’s where we are now, isn’t it? Postcards home from Heaven.

Not exactly religion

Screenshot anime Yuyushiki

“OK, God. Give me money.” The Bronze Age religions were unabashedly Version 2: You gave your gods stuff, like burning the fat of a sheep, and they gave you stuff, like more sheep. The deal made sense since they were more powerful than you, I guess. But if you try this today, within one of the great world religions, you’ll sense a disturbance in the Force. Something has changed, but what?

I want to make it even clearer that what I have written about this past month is not a new religion, or an old religion, or a syncretism of several old religions. Rather, I write about an element that shows up in several great religions, but which is itself (I believe) not exactly religious.

The New Mind, the next major version of the “operating system” for the human brain, changes the way one sees things. It certainly changes the way one sees religion. Religion as seen by the old mindset is a very different thing from what the founders intended, as they had (at the very least) version 3 rather than our version 2. So a person thinking in the old way is actually unable to understand his own religion, even if he is a good person doing good things and very eager in his practice and strong in his faith. These qualities are all worthy of praise, but there are still many things that you can’t understand.

There are things that are simple and obvious once one has glimpsed them through the lens of the New Mind, but which needs elaborate interpretation to seem to make sense under the old mindset. If one tries to simply put the statements from the New Mind into the worldview of the old mindset, the old mind will be unable to contain them and may be destroyed in madness, or else reject the new thoughts entirely. In either case, the content is lost.

Through centuries of relentless theology, the world’s great religions have become completely understandable to the old mindset. Unfortunately, this means that they have become deeply misunderstood.

It bears repeating that the Buddha, Confucius and Lao-Tzu by all accounts had no plans of making a religion at all, and yet each of them has become worshiped as a god by a goodly number of their adherents throughout history and even today. Socrates is still known only as a philosopher, but at his time he was sentenced to death on religious grounds.

The “human operating system” or complete mindset is not exactly supernatural, or at least it is not clear that the next version is more supernatural than the one we have today. There is a reason why version 3 has not become a runaway success yet. Version 2 is very well suited for the time we have lived through for the past few ten thousand years. With the center on the individual person, his body and his bloodline, it encourages people to survive and breed even at the cost of others, within reason. In this way, humans have become gradually more plentiful and gradually exerted greater control over their environment. Only now has population density reached a level where the old system is creating problems that threaten our very survival.

And that is why, religion or no religion, we have to prepare for the change. It is change or die. If we after that still has something that can be called religion – and I think so – it will be very different from what most people think of as religion today. That’s probably a good thing, to be honest. Because there is a lot of weird stuff that is accepted as part of religion today, and a lot of people who quite reasonably reject all religion because of the weird mishmash and painfully stretched explanations that come from trying to express Version 3 truths in Version 2 thinking.

I am certainly not an atheist, but I agree with some of the saner atheists on a lot of things. The god they disbelieve in is not the God I believe in, to put it mildly. Someone called it “a faith worse than death”, and that is really apt, because living forever as a minion of a capricious, cruel and spiteful god is more like being a zombie than being saved. But before you make a final decision about what to think about God or Spirit, it is more important to think about yourself and upgrade your own mind. THEN you can look at all things, whether it be religion, politics, food or sex, with new eyes. But if you are happy with how you are now, you will say: “The old is good” and you will want nothing of this.

But I believe you will be happier if you tear down the walls of your mind and let the Light in.

Screenshot City of Heroes, approx. 2004

Randomly diving in the enormous archives of my Chaos Node, I think I found the first entry that outlined my belief in the Coming Change and the parallel to the arrival of the current mind. It was more than a year before the longer series in 2005. And it was in part based on an even older entry, but one that only contains the seeds of the idea, not yet sprouted. (There is a link to that entry too.)

A super future, if any (Idus Martiæ, 2004).