Religion Or . . .

“The god of economic growth has displaced the traditional Creator, in practice if not in mythology, along with the divinities of indigenous and predominant cultures across the world. The economic priesthood that dictates the worship of the god of growth can only be overthrown with the aid of science, which tells us that there cannot be infinite growth on a finite planet.
No god will fix the ecological mess we – all of us – are making. As Stephen Jay Gould wrote, ‘We are one among millions of species, stewards of nothing…Nature does not exist for us, had no idea we were coming, and doesn’t give a damn about us.’ That, in a nutshell, is the scientific view, which some may characterize as antagonistic to spirituality. But a scientific understanding of nature should not diminish an appreciation of it, nor fail to teach us the humble lesson that humans need to move from stewardship to ‘studentship’ to better learn the ways of the Earth. As biologist Neil K. Dawe observed, ‘It is not the planet or its ecosystems that need stewarding, it is us.’”
Tim Murray, Seeking an Ecological Rescue: Do We Need a Spiritual Awakening—or a Scientific Understanding?

“Religion amplifies the good and evil tendencies of individual souls. Religion will always remain a powerful force in the history of our species. To me, the meaning of progress in religion is simply this, that as we move from the past to the future the good works inspired by religion should more and more prevail over the evil.”
Freeman Dyson, The Progress of Religion

“They also said the children were given ‘very strict’ home-schooling and they had to memorise long passages of the Bible. Some of the children were aiming to learn it in its entirety, they said. Despite this, the school listed at their address is on public records as ‘non-religious’.”
BBC, Turpins: The ‘happy family’ at centre of torture allegations

“Where do you go when what you believe in lets you down? When the ‘One’ who will always be there, never shows up. When you are desperately waiting on a power, which will bring you out of the hell you are experiencing. When you come to the realization that you have been waiting so long for this type of encounter you feel like a stalker. . . The way I knew God was dangerous. The way I operated in church was crippling. The way I saw religion and what is required of me and others is suicidal. I Quit!
Losing religion and finding God has changed me and I am glad. I no longer fear where I will spend eternity; it just doesn’t matter to me anymore. I am no longer persuaded to do good because heaven is a dangling carrot in front of my face. Nor am I dissuaded from doing bad because hell is a cruel task master with a whip poised to strike my ass. I choose to do good because I am in love. Whether I am in heaven or hell, my God will be there. Even in the grave, my God will be there. Even if I am crazy enough to get back into church again, my God will be there.”
Van Roberts, Rescue Me: Confessions of an Ex-evangelical

“A year before Pearl Harbor, when I was nine years old, newsreels of the London Blitz impressed me with the incomprehensible cruelty of the Nazis. The demolition and burning of cities filled with people of all ages seemed to express their demonic character.”
Daniel Ellsberg, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner

“Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you.”
John 14.27

 

Ecology is the study of biological organisms in their non-biological environments. Humankind’s built up environments have taken on gigantic proportions in the modern world and we, the inhabitants and creators of it, have become Homo Colossus. To study ourselves in our environment we need to recognize we have become a new type of species than that which we had been for many hundreds of thousands of years. This giantism has been made possible by the confluence of numerous features in our social evolution. The ability of our mathematics to provide engineering with certainty in building is perhaps foremost intellectually. The use of the scientific method to investigate the biological and non-biological features of earth has provided the evidence based reasoning by which both the maths and the engineering laid for themselves firm foundations. This too is an intellectual achievement of the first order. We can rightly pride ourselves on the great mercies these skills have brought to the lives of billions of human beings.

However, this revolution in mankind’s relationship with the earth did not take place solely due to intellectual achievements. The ecological study of relationships between organisms and their environments points to another element, equally necessary. It is only because humankind harnessed the unique thermodynamic properties of oil that Homo Colossus came to be. Without this uniquely energy dense resource the world as we have come to know it over the last few centuries would simply not exist. Oil is relatively easily harvested, transformed, and transported. The design of machines capable of work using it are also relatively simple. After all, the complexity of the combustion engine is a number of degrees less than that of a tree seed or the erosion process of a river.

I want to whisper something. There is no such thing as religion. It is a modern conception that a particular set of behaviors and dispositions can be encircled and set aside from the rest of life, set aside as holy and virtuous, laudable but wholly impractical. The modern conception that we can have religion on Sunday and war on Monday is a profound misunderstanding of the interdependent truth of things. The psyche, your psyche, does not honor these arbitrary divisions.

Truth – this is what is now being spat upon in the public square. The manipulation of the public mind by those who know what is best for it started with the invention of public relations by Edward Bernays. He was the nephew of Sigmund Freud and was quick to apply his research into the dynamics of the unconscious mind to public persuasion, creating what we recognize today as PR. In the time of the previous World Wars it was not hard to hope that by using emotional manipulations to unconsciously trigger and guide people’s desires, a means would be found to keep the beast hiding in the heart of the masses under control. Democracy, people like Bernays thought, needed the guiding hand of the educated, better classes if it was to resits the temptations of totalitarian systems and populist revolutionaries. What began as a quest for social stability became the protection of the status quo at all costs. Along the way a new religion was born, the monotheism of money.

Today those who know what is best for us have become holy warriors. They have secrets about nuclear arsenals, secrets about listening in on every phone call, in fact there are secrets about so many things that it is hard to know where to draw the line. Once again we are confronted with knowledge characterized by ambiguity and unknowns where the best we can rationally hope for is some educated probabilities. There have always been state secrets, some of which were justified and others which were not. The very special inheritance given the United States in its constitution and the balance of powers has always been less than ideal in practice. In spite of the lauded freedom of the press, there have been times of corruption in the history of the world’s most celebrated melting pot that bring tears to the eyes of anyone who cares about human decency. The current conditions of our politics is not as strange as we might like to think. On the other hand, it is not within the bands of historical normal either. Long decades of the elites believing wealth bestows god’s grace, that because someone is rich they must also be wise, that status and dignity in one’s community only depends on the size of one’s bank account, all these changes to the traditional Christian mores have taken their toll. Today very few of my fellow citizens seem to recall that there could be a type of decency unrelated to money at all. One that depends on values other than ruthless competition in the marketplace and always getting the better of anyone you deal with. Though we give lip service to those motivated by charity, we do not allow such considerations to affect policy.

Frankly the leaders of the so-called free world, who have at their beck and call the most destructive forces ever amassed in the history of our species, are troublingly fundamentalist in their approach to the problems of the world. Discussions of human values outside of economic considerations is simply verboten. Though the link between climate change and oil use could not be clearer, it cannot be spoken aloud. Not its full implications anyway, those that would demand that we change our ways. Nor, under the new set of EPA directives, can the link between oil use and climate change be used as a guide to policy decisions. Indeed, large changes in regulation have opened ocean exploration and so much more. We will not talk seriously about it and we will not change our behavior. We have doubled down on our bet that all the ecologists must be mistaken. Welcome to the war between the economists and the ecologists. It is a war of ideas in the interpersonal space of our social lives, though it is a war of facts on the ground. Both parties cannot be right. It is a war for what is going to be understood as real and true by you and me and all of our neighbors. Note, I do not say it is a war for what will be real and true, only the hubris born of Homo Colossus makes that mistake. What is real is not ours to dictate.

If we call a tail a leg, how many legs does a dog have? Four, calling a tail a leg does not make it one.

To be as clear as possible I fear money’s true believers have become holy warriors and that the holy warriors have embraced the holy lie. The United States citizens, and the rest of the world that is affected by the decisions made in the worlds largest economy, are all being gaslighted by the abuser in chief. The president will speak an untruth, insist on it vehemently, and continue to repeat it as many times as he might wish with all the sincerity of a true believer. Keep this up day after day and the targets of these mental manipulations will soon begin to question their own sense of reality. How quickly these non-normal politics became normal will likely amaze historians, much like the ecological crisis that has seen climate disasters breaking previous records week after week quickly became the new normal. We simply are not well served by news departments turned into profit centers disseminating public relations for their corporate owners. The twisted thing about this gas-lighting mental incapacitation is that it is not recognized as such by those victimized by it. An uncomfortable feeling spreads, as if we were living in a dream or a cartoon, blanketing everything with a foggy sense that whatever craziness we find ourselves doing doesn’t really matter. You know you are infected when horrors no longer horrify and what was important last week gets lost in a wave of this week’s trivia. While in the United States the national conversation all too often devolves to a level of pleasure grunts and terror threats, very few individuals are able to withstand the torrent of language debasement. Language is the primary tool by which we are able to share our view of the world with one another. In that sharing we arrive, slowly but steadily, at a consensus around what is real and what is not. It is this concusses that reveals to us what seems to be very important and what does not. This is not something individuals decide for themselves alone, it requires feedback from the environment in which they find themselves and as social primates, for us humans, it is always the other people in our environments that matter most.

Historians of war are often lead to wonder how whole countries can be swept up into madness. The witnesses of debased atrocities taken as normal in the times of the World Wars never ceased to speak out against the madness they had endured. The neighbors we see around us today, how odd it is that under the right circumstances they can be made to do things to other people that are unspeakably horrifying. (Who taught the Turpins their religion?) How this descent into the demonic happens is related to this ability of leaders to create webs of deception in the public mind. Totalitarian manipulation of news and information is done to disseminate the lies the leaders need to be believed, lies always given to the populous for a higher cause, for their own good. The holy lie amounts to a means of creating temporary psychosis in the masses and a manipulation of their grasp on reality itself.

Today, I believe, our reality is defined by our ecological ignorance more than anything else. Nothing holds the threat to all that is good and decent in this world more than that of the ongoing destruction of earth’s habitats and inhabitants does. It is a science we are discussing, not a philosophy. It is based in mathematics and models, not ad campaigns and graphic arts. In ecology the old saw about “follow the money” is updated, today we need to “follow the oil.”

It is far later on our journey across the trends first pointed out in the Limits to Growth study than most of the people I talk with seem to realize. The truth our ecological researchers are investigating is one that deals with cycles and patterns that have now become identifiable trends. Where those trends lead is not really up for debate. It is not in the power of humankind to decide that since they do not like what these sciences have to say about the costs of our worship of economic growth, that we can simply ignore them so that they will not hurt us. We can decide to ignore them, as we are today with seemingly every new EPA ruling, but we cannot make the earth itself conform to our wishes. We cannot cause the harm not to fall on our heads. That is where dangerous magical thinking come in; ignoring bad news about reality does not change reality. Today, however, we have gone further. We have taken it upon ourselves to drown in our hubris, to reach beyond repression of the truth by denial. Today we succumb to the ever present temptation to dictate to reality what it must be. Following Goebbels’ lead we have decided that black is white, that increasing oil supplies and oil use is the answer to all earth’s problems with economic growth. We parade our new found faith as if it is the most liberating thing humankind has ever hit upon.

If instead of following the leader’s lies into cognitive dissonance individuals insist on thinking for themselves, they are able to withstand even the most horrendous historical injustices. By taking one’s seat, by knowing what is real and what is not for oneself to the best of one’s ability, it is possible to create a prophylactic shield against the social diseases we are discussing. It is my contention that ecology plays a central role in this process today. Ecology is where the Holy Spirit is moving in our times, to use the older way of talking. Ecological ethics is where the truth that is most existentially meaningful for people alive today is to be found, to use a more modern philosophic means of saying the same thing.

Understanding the role of oil in the modern world is absolutely critical for understanding the modern world at all. How else are we to comprehend the fact that while we know burning fossil fuels is the cause of climate change, and that climate change brings risks that are unacceptably high, policy makers are powerless to slow its worldwide use? How else are we to understand why future generations, the immediate next generation or two, are so easily thrown under the bus? The size of our technology coupled with our money monotheism exceeds our capacity to control. Homo Colossus is incapable of dismantling itself because it entails a complete reversal of our religious belief, our unquestioned and unquestionable faith in greed. The revelation of emptiness, the revelation of silence from our gods, has never been an easy one for us to grasp.

Understanding the role of peak oil comes in second place as the most crucial ecological concept required to make any sense of our modern world. The finite resource on which most all human infrastructures rely is no longer at the beck and call of humankind. The inevitable turn to dirty oil sources is just the start of expected peak oil implications. The oil wars come next. A simple list of the countries with the largest proven oil reserves pretty much spells out what we can expect. The true believers in the monotheism of money first, money last, and money only as the real guide to all decision making and the real measure of all human dignity are blind leaders. Even those who claim some ecological concern are disingenuously infatuated with alternative fuels as the answer to all earth’s woes. Wind and wave, solar and hydrogen, fusion and fairy dust, these will not allow business as usual to continue. To insist they can is to behave as if the laws of thermodynamics were nothing more than suggestions. A factual grasp of thermodynamic limitations on efficiency conversions involved in getting work from these sources and the fact that all these alternatives rely on fossil fueled infrastructures (not to mention quickly peaking rare earth metals) are key to understanding that they will never allow humankind to continue with its existing arrangements. The prophets and priests of the neoliberal order will prove to be false prophets of the worst kind. When their promises of a future for you and I under their reign lies in tatters, there will be little comfort in “I told you so.” Even if decades from now people shoot the users of fossil fuels on sight and hang the lying leaders from the lampposts, it will do nothing to return to humankind the predictable weather patterns needed for predictable harvests. When the grey technologies have poisoned the green technologies beyond repair we will watch our children die.

The third most critical insight from the ecological sciences that is critical for understanding the modern world is the foundational concept of interdependence. This is an idea that had mostly been talked about in terms of religion and philosophy in the past. As the worship of money has no quarter for any of those old fashion sources of wisdom, this too has been dismissed as impractical, unreal, unworkable, and as the ultimate insult, mystical. Interdependence is the idea that everything is connected to everything else. Some of the connections are course, some are fine. Some of the connections are between things seen, many more are between things unseen. All these connections cause one thing to depend on other things – this is what interdependence means. It applies as a scientific concept across a wide range of scales from how members of a species interact with one another and other species, to how living things interact with the non-living environment. At the largest scale that should concern us it applies to the whole biosphere of earth, the whole planet with its biological and non-biological processes each inseparably inter-meshed with one another (including human beings and their use of oil). At the smallest scale that should concern us it applies to each and every economic interaction in which resources are taken from the water, ground, and sky and put to use producing wealth and enlarging Homo Colossus so that that wealth may continue to grow.

The role of oil, the implications of peak oil, and the science of interdependence – these are ecology’s most important scientific contributions to the store of human knowledge for our times. They were true in the past, are true now, and will remain true tomorrow morning when we wake up to yet another day in which our societies will deny they are heading headlong into a shit storm.

It does not need to be this way. It is possible to speak the truth, talk about these things honestly and refuse the greedy warmongering leading us to disaster. It is, in fact, fairly easy to align one’s own heart and soul to the meaning of these things and from there watch your own life become an adventure. You and I are not responsible for what the rich and powerful choose to do or not do. We are responsible for how we will react to the times we find ourselves in. We can live as men and women with dignity, recognizing that the good in this world is worth fighting for. Or we can join the fog of foolishness, hoping against hope that some magic will save us in the end from the results of our own craziness. This later approach never works out well. That is what all the initiates of all the ages have been at pains to try and communicate since the wise first started putting teachings together. On one hand is reality, on the other hand is delusion. Sometimes the moral choices we need to make really are that simple. Choose your god carefully.

Magical Christianity, an Oxymoron

“In the wider Middle East, it undermines and weakens America’s partners, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Bahrain, and others who have worked with the U.S. on issues relating to Iran, but also were hopeful that there would be a peace plan they could be part of. It weakens and undermines them.
The ones perhaps who are happiest, other than the Israeli government itself, which certainly is very happy, are Iran and its allies and Russia’s President Putin. We saw President Putin immediately take a victory lap, visiting Syria, Egypt, and Turkey all in one day, denouncing the Jerusalem decision, while also declaring victory in Syria and other places.”
The Long Term Global Consequences of Trump’s Jerusalem Move, PBS News

 

The failure of Homo Colossus as laid out in Limits to Growth is evident on every hand.

So what gives? Why is this blog, ostensibly interested in ecology and meditation, spending so much time on Christian teachings, to the point of quoting chapter and verse last week? It is because my studied opinion is that the fault line for the collapse of the Western Consensus runs through the Church. The 1970s saw more than just the publication of Limits to Growth, it also saw the publication of The Late Great Planet Earth and with that, the whole view of magical Christianity began to increase its influence on the culture of the United States.

Mindful Ecology leads each of us where it will. I believe ecology is, if I may put it this way, the current message of the Holy Spirit. That is, it is the communication to the human psyche, both individually and collectively, about what is the most urgent “revelation” for our day. The ecological crisis is a communication coming directly from the earth itself, what theology named the creation. It is a revelation of its creator-ways, or what we today call its molecular laws. There is a place for god-talk if it reminds us that what we are talking about, the earth ecological systems, are so much larger than we puny humans. There is a place for god-talk if it engenders respect.

The relocation of the United States embassy in Israel is an important move for the true believers. I worry that because the Christian message was abused by so many for so long, today many people who call themselves Christian wouldn’t know the actual, historic, mystical Christianity if it jumped up and bit them on the nose. The publishing industry phenomenon The Left Behind series is a good example of the popularity of the doomsday message, the Christian message gone haywire. “They can’t get enough of that doomsday stuff, they can’t get enough of it all,” sang Bowie in the The Next Day. Magical Christianity seeks a real world Armageddon in the Middle East, unable to differentiate wisdom teachings in symbols from rational discourse. The current earthquake changes around the geopolitical balance in the Middle East, the source of the neo-liberal system’s key oil supplies, are not happening in a vacuum. Geology is having a say as the largest oil field in on the planet, Ghawar in Saudi Arabia, quietly peaks behind the headlines. This is the truth that must not be spoken. Peak Oil was banished from our public discourse at just the time when the use of reason requires addressing it. We have been whistling past the graveyard since the 1970s made clear our position, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. It is not as if we never heard from Presidents Carter, Reagan, Bush I, Bush II, Clinton, and Obama or the report from our own armed forces insisting the United States has a serious oil dependency problem. But culturally we made different choices, and now there are consequences.

We are being offered religious packaging over the fundamental ecological problem. On this score, if I am reading the tea leaves right, the manipulation of public relations have only just begun. I think the Tillerson – Pence – Trump team have plans for the Middle East. When those plans are in full swing I expect they will be delivered to the public in a package of fundamentalist Christian faith. The ‘Crusades’ are already justified and meaningful for many folks within such traditional spiritual interpretations of the daily headlines.

In every religion throughout the long ages of the human story there has always been a tension between those who seek the mystical truth of spiritual things, and those who seek the magical power of spooky things. The mystic and the fundamentalist have never seen eye to eye, and from the looks of things, never will. As one of the mystical camp, a person who strongly believes in the value of contemplation and silent meditation, I offer a warning to those singing Onward Christian Soldiers. Things may not work out the way you expect them to, wrapped up in your flag and cross of self-righteousness.

If you were born with Christianity in your mother’s milk, you need to understand what that mythological constellation of symbols is really all about because it does concern you, whether you want it to or not. As it is said, Jesus would have come to earth to save you, and you alone. Christian mythology is the teaching of how the human conscience has an element of the shared collective or social world in it. In our most intimate inner sanctum we find the touch of other hands. Here we find the interests of other sentient beings equal to ours and thereby laying upon us an obligation. The obligation is to respect the life given even to “the least of these.”

What this means is that unscrupulous people can use this feature of the Christian mythology to manipulate others. The encounter with conscience holds a surprise for all people that were raised around the Christian stories. They are talking about, as pointed out last week, your body, your mind etc. Our culture has a practical understanding about this aspect of its symbol-rich inheritance and deals with it fairly well in Christian camps for adolescents and such. The problem comes when the wondrous vulnerability of love, so clearly on display in the Gospel story, is rejected. Then people have no alternatives but to go fishing around for things creature-reason cannot deliver. In the murky waters of a hunt for god-like power, the temptation is ever present to use the most powerful concept of all, namely god. But it is not right to use people, and god, so the Christian story teaches, includes personhood from all eternity. This means god is the ultimate person not to be used. It provokes righteous anger, as it must if any sort of justice and fairness is to exist.

What is revealed in this mythology is the very heart of the “one true god,” the inescapable ground of our being which is “closer to us than we are to ourselves.” The loving kindness human beings share with one another is real, because we really are free to choose otherwise. It is in that freedom that our love is made real. How could it be otherwise? Puppets cannot love one another. Love shows how that which created us, respects us as persons. It is astonishingly good news that love comes directly from the “maker of heaven and earth.” This is what is witnessed by the true man taken up into the true god. The man who is real and honest with himself, particularly his own experiences of emotion that so deeply move us in both our flesh and psyche equally, is the true man, the authentic human being. These wellsprings of consciousness that move us so powerfully and so deeply, they are the witness to us of the mystery of reality. The reality is that the grandeur of the cosmos with its endless galaxies, the starry nurseries, and the explosive creation of black-holes, all of it is also our nursery and the grandeur resides in our chests.

Everyone on this path of ecological awakening arrives at the silence in which conscience speaks. Here the stars, those ancient watchers who record everything that really happens, are not mute. Mystics, like scientists, have long understood that, after a fashion, the stars are on the inside.

Suffer the little child to come to the Christ. This is the innocent one within you that still lives inside the memory of your nervous system. It is the spark of personhood before and after the terrifying abuse children suffer at the hands of those few evil adults that seek them out. The inner child, flesh of your flesh and bone of your bone, is silent when at peace. They are at peace when the adult they have become understands and respects who they are and the truth of what they have experienced. An adult that accepts their creature status finds in Jesus their protector, the one who will plead your case before those who would falsely accuse you. It is he that would, as we say, go to the carpet for you, or in this case, the cross. The old Christmas hymn O Holy Night states that with Jesus “the soul felt its worth.” Finding yourself as the latest generation in a history of countless ancestors, finding yourself as one individual in a world full of people, and finding yourself a victim of evil abuse, this is all a bit overwhelming. Allowing the little child to come to the Christ is, symbolically, how you come to know that your life matters. Jesus would have come to earth to share the teaching of the kingdom and the loving father with you if you were the only human being ever to exist throughout all the ages, to compassionately suffer your pain with you so you would not be alone if yours was the only human pain this universe would ever know, and would come to carry your bruised and broken heart when love dies in the dark night even if your heart were the only one to ever be broken. There is an encounter here with a very real psychological, biological, and social truth about the human condition. Call it what you will, this encounter with the higher should result in a healthy adult pride, one capable of sustaining a person through the trials and challenges of seeing their dreams come true through hard work and a good dose of faith, hope, and love.

Basically real faith is able to quite the mind when it becomes too anxious, and it is able to quite the body when it becomes too fearful. The witness of martyrs self-control is the classical example of faith and it is exactly this. A deep enough belief in a good god becomes a pervasive enough conviction, that persons can withstand assaults far beyond what the ego as a lone individual could endure. We see the same thing in the self-emulation of the Tibetan Buddhist monks in a non-theist framework. Those who mess around with this Christian symbolism in their unscrupulous fundamentalism are messing around with this biological control system in people. Hence so many abused by religion end up with substance abuse issues. They need additional help to maintain the faith.

The mystical teaching is that the human race is one body after a fashion, that we share in the experiences of being one flesh. Any injury or insult to human dignity is a direct assault on us all. The teachings ask only how we treat the poor, in the end there is nothing else. The poor and outcasts we discarded in our selfishness hold the hidden gold we desperately need to find as a species. In our hearts of hearts we judge ourselves by how we treat “the least of these,” not how well we treat the most wealthy and powerful. Now, with the crashing of Homo Colossus, the rich are being made poor. It is both an opportunity and a danger. Whether the lack of loving kindness that touches you with the cold finger of poverty is economic, emotional, intellectual, sexual, or spiritual, they all leave torture’s scars on the body. Our tears do not sleep and then, in our hurt and anger, we become twisted and confused and in need of healing. That this healing does in fact come to individuals, untangling lies and providing the courage to speak the truth, sustains a rational hope that it can also come to our communities. We can swing the tenor of the collective conversation towards real-world issues if enough of us insist on it.

Contemplation is the birthright of everyone, the sweetest gift life has to offer, a love-making with the cosmos and a resting in the arms of creation’s gifts. It pierces the darkness of our lives and finds meaning in their events, often painful and sorrowful but real and lasting and true. Learning to be still in body and mind allows us to sit openly listening to our hearts. Our hearts know what we are. They know our worth.

Nailing Miracles, part one

My pain is legitimate, as legitimate as yours or any other sentient being who has ever lived. This is the message of the crucifixion. It is the message bullies do not want to hear, yet victims need to say and in saying, be heard. This, our existential equality, is what the fear of our own vulnerability drives us to deny. Our vulnerability terrifies us and we lash out against it when we see it in the eyes of the suffering poor, the abused child, the victims of war brutalities, and the homeless refugees and migrants wandering the earth without a protector. In the eyes of sentient beings there is a judgment as well as a reflection of the events they witness. Our profoundly complex biochemistry kindles this dual light in our eyes as the light of self awareness. The inescapable teaching about human authenticity and integrity is wrapped up in this mystery related to pain and suffering and reflected in the eyes, the windows of the soul. In the dead eyes of the severely traumatized we, and the universe reflecting on itself through those eyes, stand condemned. It needs to be torn down in fire and made anew as a new heaven and a new earth.

That which we call ‘god’ is the ‘eye’ at the center of it all – an awareness that sees and records everything that really happens. Call it the morphic field of physical memory, if you will. Reality is the true molecular configurations of elements and biochemistries shaped by the accumulation of all past events. The fantasies, the rationalizations, the spin, the deceptions, and the lies we tell, they alter the balance of these scales not one whit. It is not fooled; it records only what reality has hosted. There is another way to put this: no one gets away with anything.

The cross is the conscience of the one body catholic. There hangs the human being betrayed by human machinations, suffering the results of human evil, not of god. As creatures our love will die; we will watch it die when loved ones pass away and one day we will die ourselves. This is the suffering inherent in our nature, suffering we could say is directly from the hand of our creator. Death is not evil in itself anymore than reproduction is. That inherent suffering comes from the same hand that created the clouds, the mountains, the bubbling mountain stream, and the lamb. . . Seen aright we understand a precious goodness has come to us from that hand. It has given us our very existence and the beauty and truth that surrounds it. This hand we can trust, and learn to trust all the more as our faith in the goodness of creation increases. However, human evil adds another level of suffering that reaches above and beyond that which nature has created for us.

Our form of consciousness can be turned away from its natural propensity for thanks and praise when it is spiritually injured. The more serious the injury, the more serious this reorientation of the understanding can become. When this happens human consciousness turns all its skills against itself, hating its mortal vulnerability. If we do not voluntarily take up our limitations, we will be haunted by reminders of them everywhere. Then the eyes of the poor in spirit, all those who are victimized, show reminders of the vulnerability inherent in the flesh. Such people have come to hate reminders of that vulnerability. That hatred drives them to target the least among us; they want to destroy the innocent and the vulnerable. This is what the old way of talking about the human condition called the demonic. It is a hate that can posses people, pushing out the personality that was once there. That is, it can replace who they were as children and the normal path of character development they would have followed which could hold a basic trust in the goodness of the world and the people in it, with a secondary personality centered around hatred and revenge. Here is the tricky part: more often than not this secondary personality will claim it is on a mission to save others, crushing the light in the eyes of their victims “for their own good.”

The symbol of the Church Catholic is of one body. All the members of the human race share in this body, this mystical body, for it is a reflection in symbol of the flesh and blood (DNA and biochemical makeup) we all share – regardless of race, politics, socioeconomic class, religion, or gender. For this Church we pray. Only those who have committed crimes against the Holy Spirit, the mortal sins, the vicious violent cruelty of the 10% of evil done for evil’s sake to slake this hatred of our creature-hood, remain outside the communion as long as they remain unrepentant. This is the definition of the communion. If the abuses we have been discussing are in fact attacks on the Holy Temple among us, the body of flesh and blood by which we bare the image of god aka human consciousness, then as long as they remain unrepentant those who have committed such atrocities are, by definition, at war with the body. These are, as we say today, crimes against humanity.

Such people are in a sorry state. They are a house divided against itself.

What is real and true about being a creature is rooted in the evolutionary development (evo-devo) of the embryo as it is manifest through the child and on throughout the life stages. There is a continuity of identity gifted from the mystery from which all things are brought forth. Identity, and its map of the world by which it navigates, both arise from the biochemical matrix of our awareness interacting with our experiences, each experience etching themselves on our skin (the emotional body of our musculature and nervous systems) and the brain’s memory processing capacity. In this way the moment by moment miracle of human experience forms our characters as we are shaped and molded by the incarnation of our stories.

This is THE miracle. There is no other. This is THE magic. There is no other.

Humans can fool themselves into believing otherwise, tripping up their own minds. They risk coming to the end of their lives only to find out that they have been living out caricatures of the life they could have potentially had. It is a high price to pay for the self-deception that you have somehow magically escaped death and the attendant vulnerability of the shared human condition. Tragedy is the fate of those who insist the world must conform to their fantasy and proceed to act on such delusions. Such folly does not change the reality of the situations their incantations are addressing. On those shores, the stubborn firm foundations of what is and what is not in our molecular world, many a shipwreck of strange religious, political, and economic cults have crashed.

Why then, in the written material the Western cultural tradition insists is a valid guide through wisdom and folly, namely the Gospels, are we confronted with a miracle worker? If these materials are to be our gateway into the truth, why set up these guardians at the threshold? If a person came up to you today and claimed that their guru walks on water, was born of a virgin, multiplies loaves of bread, and raises the dead to life, well that person would be a liar. That is the way the world is right now, today. We have every reason to believe that is how the world was 2,000 years ago, or 5,000 years ago, or as long back as we might care to speculate. What is this all about? Why include the lies and liars?

The Gospel stories did not introduce miracle stories to the world, the world was already full of them. What the Gospels did was link those types of stories with Jesus as a teacher of compassion. This is new. Most miracle stories are power stories, magicians battling it out as we discussed when we looked at Moses in Pharaoh’s court. The question was not about whether or not to include miracles alongside the teachings, the question was whether or not miracle tales would have teachings attached to them!

Miracle stories are only lies if read literally. That is the epistemological truth, I believe, these tales are meant to teach. They are a lure, or a trap, for those with mistaken ideas of god. The great fisherman uses them to bring us to healing. He is the “truth, the light, and the way” for the wounded who are willing to endure their own death of god on their own cross. We need to be willing to give up our mistaken ideas. We need to courageously and honestly face the meaninglessness of the universe for a mind dominated by human cruelty. Nothing less recognizes humankind’s true freedom of will and the power it manifests. In the dark night, the desert, the abyss – here one finds He who is greater than human weaknesses within the human experience. The Lord of the Dance prevails just when things seem darkest. Miracle stories are only lies if read literally. The emotional truth they convey is on the order of metaphor, poetry. They serve the real miracle of the Christ, the recreation of the universe in a new heaven and a new earth by which we are healed. Nothing less dramatic than the miraculous can capture the awe and power involved in our most defining subjective experiences as embodied rational souls.

In the hunt for a meaningful life we are bound to come across people and institutions making claims to supernatural power and wisdom. Human beings are born gullible and it is no small feat to properly enthrone rationality. What to do? It is interesting that the Church Fathers who put together this material insisted that there were multiple ways of reading scripture. The idea that the Gospels are providing documentary evidence of modern historical fact is foreign to the spirit of what was very clearly being explained by those who were initially involved in the formation of the written materials and the accompanying traditions.

What miracles do convey is a picture of a universe ruled by personalized forces. In such a universe our own subjectivity is at home. It paints a picture of a world that responds to the needs of humans and animals, that cares about each individual alive within it, and that watches over them to protect and guide them. This is a world in which angelic messengers can accomplish missions unaware, perhaps as strangers visiting for an evening meal or asking for a handout by the side of the road. It is a world where certain images, and certain places and times, can be made sacred and special by their dedication to the intellectual and emotional, yet invisible, “powers” we encounter in our psyches. It is to convey some sense of the most powerful of these “inner powers” that the Gospels were written.

Written materials without the traditions in which they were designed to be used can be very dangerous. The tradition involved with the Gospels taught then, and continues to teach, a very mystical Christianity centered on Eucharistic devotion. This is quite different than Bible thumping in any number of ways. Catholic sensibilities elevate the sacraments and the sacramental in a calendar punctuated by sacred memorial. Worship is an act of the body as well as the mind, with smells and bells and ritual movements. Religion is presented as a celebration of sacred creation and the possibility of redemption in its midst. Religion is not an intellectual battle ground, it is a place of peace. The light of the candle of faith is easily blown out by the cold winds of the evil that men do, but this is why there is a Church where the light of faith can be passed from one candle to another, rekindled when needed by another person’s strength when we are weak. The altar, the heart of religion, is a place where those moved by the needs of the heart seek the heart of god, the Christ light. It is a light characterized by the soft warm glow of the tabernacle candle, a warm light the body is comfortable with.

The alternative altar is that of magic and miracles where ultimately there will be a sacrifice not of the divine lamb, but of the poor and vulnerable among us human beings.

The Church of Child Abuse, part three

“the other face of the same vice is the Pelagianism of the pious. They do not want forgiveness and in general they do not want any real gift from God either. They just want to be in order. They don’t want hope they just want security. Their aim is to gain the right to salvation through a strict practice of religious exercises, through prayers and action. What they lack is humility which is essential in order to love; the humility to receive gifts not just because we deserve it or because of how we act…”
Pope Benedict XVI, Looking at Christ: Examples of faith, hope and charity

 

This post continues a discussion of religious child abuse. It may not be appropriate for all readers.

So where do fundamentalists think they are getting all this magical power that they assume they have? Where do they get their assurance that they are right to wield it as they do? It might be little more than an error in the very complex development task related to learning how to speak and think in a language.

“for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life”

Have you had the experience of reading a great book, one that resonated with you and provided you with many insights that “felt” true and real? Do you recall how that effect lasted for days, maybe months or even years as it continued to influence how you think and feel about things? Books are powerful that way. I mentioned how when I first learned about fractals my way of seeing the natural world was wholly transformed for awhile. The funny thing is that for lifelong readers, as the years go by, other books will come along and have the same effect – even when they do not agree with one another or have anything to do with one another. By such means our minds are transformed. If we are lucky, we will find our own voice as we attempt to sort out for ourselves what we believe to be the true, the good, and the beautiful.

Children who are learning their numbers and the alphabet, then first learning to read and write, are in a world of wonder in which one awe seems to follow another as easily and naturally as day follows night. The power of naming things, both sensations within and objects without, provides the growing awareness with the tools it needs to filter the doors of perception and their ongoing, highly energetic flow of sensory information. Fundamentalism, it seems to me, is a flaw in this process. Words are left with a magical aura and the adult life is characterized by a belief in magical books and superstitious spells combined with a weakness for charismatic teachers that claims to have all the answers.

Fundamentalism is magic. It uses religious symbolism magically. Fundamentalists are neo-Pelagian to the extent that they are sure they can please god if they can just get the law right, the rubric right, the ritual right. Among their idols are shamans, grimoires, and incantations disguised as preachers, scriptures and prayers (did you say the born again prayer just right? It doesn’t count otherwise you know…).

Writing was said to be the gift of Thoth, the Egyptian god of magic. There is still a recognition of this in our language where the magician’s grimoire derives from grammar. Hypnotists, advertisers, and snake-oil salesmen of every stripe know all about these odd quirks of our brains and the power that words can take in our mental lives. The thing we are up against is both very simple and very profound. When we read or hear the written word, there is always an assumed authority of the authorial voice in play. It sounds, to our inner ear busily listening and interpreting the words, all-knowing.

To interpret the words we hear necessarily involves parsing them correctly and accessing their definitions correctly. One of the most tragic results of fundamentalist indoctrination of the young is that it removes the normally shared definitions of words, replacing the meaning behind them with the unique cultic interpretations. This isolates the person’s mind, literally making it impossible to accurately communicate with the person unless one adopts the cultic definitions. A mind severed from other minds, unable to communicate meaningfully because lacking in shared definitions and references, is well on its way towards madness. It is an evil thing, this unhinging of reason in the name of god.

I write all the time and struggle with the assumed authorial authority aspect of it. Yes, I think I know a few things and want to talk about them. I hope by doing so readers might recognize a bit of themselves in what I write and by sharing our innermost, find some comfort. That is as far as it goes. I am so far from all-knowing that its laughable. Yet, I cannot write a paragraph without sounding like I know what I am talking about, not just in that paragraph, but all the time. Readers who have not learned to claim equality with writers, or listeners who have not learned to claim their equal worth with the speakers of written words, are left with the impression that the author’s or speaker’s life experience must be so much better than their own. Hey, if my thoughts ran as clearly as my writing, it would be a different world inside me than what you find inside you. It does not work that way. Writing is crafted, thinking is raw.

James Joyce worked to expose the assumed authorial authority implied in using inherited words in an attempt to reveal the authority in the inspiration. The inspiration is of the living, a moment of communion, but held in clay hands.

Writing is a gift our cultural evolution uses to bind time within the human experience. I read the worries and hopes of a fifth century African bishop by spending quality time with St. Augustine’s Confessions, or speculate about truth with an ancient Greek I know as Socrates, and my innermost person communicates with the dead. I share not only thoughts but some sense of the personality who was one with those thoughts. Even though their bodily elements were long ago reabsorbed into the earth, their “spiritual” elements remain unaffected. That does really happen. It is not the ancient Pharaoh dream of magical afterlife immortality (complete with sex and servants) but, it is not nothing. This time binding, to use the perfectly descriptive term Alfred Korzybski introduced in Science and Sanity, is the only reality of the communion of saints (and sinners) the living will ever know (outside, perhaps, of visionary experience). To claim more than that is to lie.

In the written word, when it is guided by integrity and not guile, one person’s innermost touches another person’s innermost. In fact, only through the written word is it possible to achieve the most intimate cognitive sharing possible between two human beings. Spoken conversation simply cannot carry the detail and nuances that make a written work weighty. This power of words to both reveal souls to one another, and to seemingly overcome the silencing of a person upon death, can become the source of superstitious over-belief – particularly among the illiterate or those exposed to very little of the rich human heritage our libraries offer. The People of the Book have a very peculiar lesson to teach. I suggest it might most fundamentally be a lesson about books in general, rather than their contents in particular. The lesson books teach is also a lesson about authority. I suggest that those who learned to read poetry and myth aright in the past, worked hard to warn us about how the book’s inherent assumed authorial authority remains a temptation for the human mind, one that can enslave us to superstitious idolatry unless it is actively resisted. The irony is that the fright-filled mind enslaved by religious superstitions was hurt by the very means it might have used to find the freedom to, as the older way of saying it would have it, worship the living god in truth and grace.

“why seek Him among the dead? He is not here”

Let your life be the book, filled with acts of kindness and compassion, in which your neighbors may read the lost Word. In this way Your Name is written into the Book of Life.  On the other hand, if you use poetry and myth to throw the book at others, judging them and condemning them in your hubris of self-satisfied certainty, you will fall. If you choose to use your Holy Books as Evil Books, you will fall.

The universal experience of serious authors is that at special times there really is something of the divine, at least of the daemon, in the authorial inspiration. Sometimes a breath of inspiration comes and lifts the work above the normal channeling of an idea. It feels all the world like something bigger than our individuality were breathing the world-soul through us. In these times it feels as if a voice is almost dictating and as a writer you are but serving as a scribe for the muse. It may not be wrong to call such special work ‘inspired’ or even a work of ‘revelation.’ It would be wrong to blame it for why we choose to continue to spoil the land, air and waters of the earth, or blame it for the tragic day, if it comes, on which we poison the genetic code of earth’s deep time with our unleashed nuclear weapons.

Be that as it may, there is one thing that is true right now, today: it is wrong to cloak the Religious Abuse of Children in the threadbare deceptions and double binds that inevitably accompany literal readings of myth and poetry. There is a force for good that is real and powerful in the molecular world, the Word within our words as it were, which it would be wise to exalt in our own hearts above the cleverness of human wit and deception. It made the mountains, it can teach us to think like a mountain. As soon as we can do so, we find that the Church of Child Abuse was built on sand, and there is a hurricane coming.

The Church of Child Abuse, part two

“Listen to the whores he tells him.”
David Bowie, The Next Day

“If you want a vision of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face – forever.”
George Orwell, 1984

“‘Amen, I say to you, whoever does not accept the Kingdom of God as a child, will not enter it.’ Then he embraced them and blessed them, putting his hands upon them.”
Jesus, Mark 10.15-16

 

This post continues a discussion of religious child abuse. It may not be appropriate for all readers.

The inner essence of the act of Religious Abuse is always the same. It consists of introducing the face of a unique child of god, innocent and trusting, to the terror of the authoritarian boot that hates that face. Totalitarian thinking is threatened by those who question authority, something every child does naturally and playfully as they see through the Emperor’s New Clothes to the foolish naked human underneath putting on airs. This is intolerable for the uptight, those poor souls whose sense that life is good, fun, and beautiful was long ago torn out of their breasts by the abuses they suffered.

Religious Abuse consists of taking the spirit of the child of the deep time stars and crushing it, breaking their will. You know the boot. It is the one that likes to take the soft vulnerability of our flesh and assault it with rape, racks, burning stakes, and cattle prongs for the entertainment of the “troops” and the “faithful.” The one that likes to take a small child, weak and confused, and beat them within an inch of their lives to “teach them a lesson” or tear their flesh with sexual perversions. It’s destructive spirit leaks out of our homes and into our streets. You know the boot when it goose-steps through our headlines, the one that claims the golden toilet-seat crowd deserves everything they take from the poor. Afraid of the boot, we all rather easily dispose of the pain of thirst in millions of non-white fellow citizens on the island of Puerto Rico, or when madness wipes the sidewalks with blood on the eve of the International Day of Non-Violence, or when congress plans to take healthcare away from the helpless among us and, since that that didn’t work out, assure us that the most important legislation in all the world they could be working on right now is lowering the corporate tax rate. If you ever get tiered of chewing on Pharaoh’s old boot leather watch out! Those in charge threaten to unleash a nuclear holocaust and teach us all a lesson in how much respect they deserve, by searing the flesh of our children and other loved ones.

This is the boot that marches throughout human history, across fields of blood, to lay the stranger’s bones in mass graves. It almost always marches under the flag of religious justifications, a diseased self-righteousness cloaked in lies of divine authority. This boot is trying to destroy humanity. It seems the interdependent intertwining of life and death is inherent in self-aware adult consciousness. Just as apoptosis, programmed cell death, is needed biologically for us to function, it seems that psychologically death is also a necessary ingredient in what makes our awareness possible at all. Perverted by our fear, our awareness of mortality threatens us with self destruction.

We have been struggling with this a very long time. The Emperor-Kings and their sycophant Holy Men who would abusively lord it over us, both at home and in the streets, are taking advantage of our species inherent Achilles heel. Christianity exposes them as the age old Christ killers: that which targets faith, hope and love in a good god that cares about us individually. The Christ killers are not a race, it is not an ethnic inheritance, it is not a skin-color, it is not a ideological membership, nor is it a particular religious affiliation that murders the innocent teacher of non-violence. It is the darkness in our own hearts. The line runs not between us and them, but within.

What is the Christ story really addressing? Our minds fear our bodies. It is that simple. It is our bodies that teach us we too will experience sickness, old age, and death. It is our bodies that turn our minds upside down in puberty. It is our bodies that panic. Out of our fear come wild dreams and nightmares of immortality gained through magical means, the sacrifice of other’s blood. Out of that fear is born something that seeks to thwart our use of reason. It happens to individuals and happens to societies.

What is it reasonable people seek? To build a more peaceful kingdom on earth, to minimize war, and do so by living harmoniously with the bounty the earth provides. This is what the hearts of every person of goodwill hopes for in their innermost longings. We have been holding this hope for a very long time and we are not a stupid species. We have used our hope to create a trap for the evil shadow-projectors and they never fail to spring it. This is the good news, the Gospel, the message that the creation of our bodies is blessed, that god became flesh, that the way of mortals is as it should be. The universe we get to be part of is not a mistake, flawed, or cruel but from a creator we can call abba. The good news is not that someday in the far future some super big Armageddon war turns bad people into good people or sends all the bad people to hell. The good news is that, right here and now and always for the human soul, nothing that matters most to us depends at all on what happens through the “powers” of the abusive Emperor-Kings and their sycophant Holy Men. They claim to own us but they did not create us. Liberation, therefore, is not something they can stop.

If we are to understand anything about spiritual abuse we need to try and understand what it means when a priest, a self-proclaimed representative of god, performs acts designed to crush the heart in their victims. They are changing the conception of the universe the human being was born with. One way it is done is when they traumatically frighten the mind out of the body, causing what their victim will remember as an out of body experience. It seems to be a built in soul comfort for those whose abused bodies are too filled with pain to remain aware of, the mind pretends it is wholly independent as if it IS dead. I say pretend because though the mind can experience dying, being dead by definition it cannot. Nothing as dramatic as this is needed though. There need not be acts of sexual or ritual violation to do the dirty deed. All you have to do, to crush the personality and leave only the cult compliant shell of a person, is to discourage every expression of uniqueness that person ever dares to reveal. This is the mark of a cult and the cultish family. Humiliate them or beat them anytime they express their own individual will, anytime they show a hope for a better tomorrow. Reject every offer of love they might make in their own quirky individual way and only accept the rote expressions of “love” approved in the cult. The dirty deed of Religious Abuse is completed when a young person setting out to try and find their way in the world truly believes they must either stay living in the cult or must live without faith, hope, and love. No one, by the way, can live without a modicum of actual faith, hope, and love. The victim is damned if they do, damned if they don’t: Catch-22. The institutional powers that have so hooked a soul into their collection-plate mechanisms – this is what we are up against.

As the ecological crisis proceeds to add weight to our delusional thrashing about, there is an increasing opportunity for individuals to wake up to the reality of what is happening. Reality is stubborn that way, always waiting for us to return to our senses. Doing so is not at all easy. What our reality sense shows is scary. What sense shows is also how little theses tin-hat dictators really control, as we see when FEMA struggles. Their powers of carnage and destruction are wholly inadequate measures of how well they can build things up. We can wake up to the truth of our situations but it requires courage. The exact same courage displayed by these victims of child abuse we are considering. Those that manage to survive do so by overthrowing the weight of lies injected into them. They bind the strong man / woman that terrified their body and are then freed to voluntarily submit to its wisdom. Why is this so hard, particularly for the traumatized and abused? Because the child loves those on whom they depend. This is the universe we are born within as mammals. The one unthinkable thought is that the victim’s parents, preachers, or teachers could be wrong, could be participating with and compliant in evil. Yet, this is the one thought the victim must have if they are to find the long, difficult path to liberation from their bondage to the Religious Abuse burden that has been injected into them by the processes of psychological projection. It takes a village to raise a child. It also takes a village to abuse one, a village filled with those who look the other way.

Sooner or later, if the young person victimized by Religious Abuse lives into adulthood and finds healing, they will confront the fact that the world of thought, the history of human ideas, is much larger than the cult they were raised in. Not only are the subjects of religion, philosophy, psychology, biology, cosmology, and all the rest, much larger than fundamentalism, but good people doing good in the world seem to come from all kinds of different traditions and from all over the globe and throughout all historic eras. All of this works against the mind programming they received as children. These people have had their brains washed in toxic apocalyptic ideas which were enforced through toxic human relationships. It make acute the need to choose what to believe just when it is hard to believe in anything. It make acute the need to find out what is real.

Most people who have been victim to these sophisticated mind forming techniques suffer incredible doubt and fear that anything good or true could exist in the world, once they dare to think the thought that should not be thought. People can choose to undo the stinking-thinking around the double binds they have learned, even while they know it will take years and be punctuated, at times, by all the terrors an overactive imagination can conjure around Satan and Hell. That is a hard row to hoe. Those that make it, in my experience, almost always have a significant other willing to join them on the journey. The other option, when confronted with the fact that the fundamentalist indoctrination of one’s youth is untrue and your mind is now haunted with double binds, is to double down on the cultic worldview. The newly minted fanatic is blind to the sunk cost fallacy. It is an easier route, this sacrifice of intellectual integrity involved in becoming a true believer, and one that assures the continuance of the cult. Such a person shuts up their doubts by shoving them in a box of repression, one maintained by a persona that brooks no doubts, admits no fears, and allows no tears. In this way they carry out the projection of evil, tragically creating the scapegoat in the next generation as they are powerless not to find another black sheep among their own children. That is the linage of the Church of Child Abuse.