THIS AND THAT ITSELF: The True Gravity of Indian Genius, Delusion, and the Velocity Towards the West

The following is a paper written in the process of creating a talk
for INK, an Indian subsidiary of TED.  From the information contained in this paper, the actual talk
was curated down to 15 minutes and delivered at the INK conference in Kochi,
Kerala from 25-27 October, 2013.

 

OUTLINE:

Introduction: Why am I here?

Basic Question: What are we in?

One Treasure: Many Maps

The Treasure: Achieving the State of Understanding.

The Mandala

True Gravity: From This to That

Darkness: This without That

The Velocity of Delusion

 

                                    
               

                                               

 

THIS AND THAT ITSELF:

The True Gravity of
Indian Genius, Delusion, and the Velocity Towards the West

 

William Pennell Rock

 

            Dear
Friends, I am very grateful and honored to be here, because I love and admire
the great genius of India, and, like many others, I have profited from it
greatly.

            Sometimes
it takes an outsider to see what is truly valuable within a culture.

The people of Naples did not know how to value their native pizza
until they were told it had become the staple of American tables.   But the ancient genius of India
is much more than pizza. It addresses the fundamental existential condition of
being human.  It has clarified an
orientation to and alignment with the source of human existence that humanity
needs now more than ever in its history.

            I
have noticed that many Indians who would be real movers and shakers in the
world tend to rush West with a velocity that leaves their ancient past behind
in the dust.  It seems to have
become fashionable to be ignorant of this heritage, as though it were a kind of
embarrassment.            

            I
am here to ignite the passion for what is anciently Indian, but still within every
Indian, in your very genes.  I want
to point out how valuable it is to understand the wisdom in your own roots, how
it is the only authentic antidote to the condition of the world, how it will
inform and underscore and fulfill your journey through life, allowing you to be
entrepreneurial with true purpose, in service to your own full awareness as you
travel through life, and an inspiration to all those around you.

            My
past lives remain an intriguing mystery, a likely story, but in this life I
have had three Indian incarnations. 
In the first I was Senior Research Fellow at the Center for the Advanced
Study in Philosophy at Banaras Hindu University, where I headed a committee of
Indian scholars who studied the Upanishads, the oldest and most important fragments
of the earliest maps to the treasure of enlightenment.  Later, I reincarnated in Pune as a
disciple of the great tantric bad-boy Master now known as Osho.  He gave me a name of Siva, Anand
Veereshwar, and taught me first-hand how to find the treasure.  In a third, I discovered a small
Veereshwar shrine in Gujarat.  The
Mahant, head of the shrine, who subsists on chai and charras, befriended me,
took me to the kumbha mela, renamed me Veereshwardas, and invited me to take up
residence in the shrine complex in an ornate pavilion built by the local
maharajah.  I passed up this
interesting retirement option for my own mini-ashram in California, where I am
the devoted disciple of my sat guru,
my own inborn awareness, because in the end this is the real guide to the
treasure.

            As
long as I can remember hearing about India, I have understood there was a great
treasure there — something that
we all really want, above all else.  But how to find it?  How to identify it? 
Studying comparative religions, I became a scholar of maps to this
treasure. Many of these maps, the most psychologically detailed and insightful,
have been created by the wise and holy men of India.   Many, many maps.           

            Starting
with the Beatles, many from my generation and sensibility came to India in
search of the treasure.  I recently
read the biography of another pilgrim, Steve Jobs.  Like many of us, after learning of the treasure in India, he
was later inspired by Japan and Zen, which simplifies everything, including the
treasure, to its essence.  Jobs translated
the treasure, not, unfortunately, into his own inner peace, but into my Macbook
Pro, whose elegance comes from its harmony of design, a simple systemic
integrity, with hardware and software tightly integrated, from source to user.  This particular refraction of the
treasure will interest the materialists among you.  It is worth billions. 

            Now
I want to tell you why I think the real treasure is the most important thing in
the world.

 

What are we in?

            The
nature of the treasure brings us immediately to a basic question of human
existence.  What are you in?  What are we in?

            One
answer might be, “one hell of a mess.” 
Collectively as a planet we are in unprecedented and grave danger. Like
a juggernaut, we go on destroying the home that supports life as we know it.  We see strife everywhere.  Every faction is pitted against every
other, with less and less prospect of peaceful resolution. The habitable world
is becoming increasingly uninhabitable, and there is no real prospect of
reversing this

            Individually,
what we are in may be a lot of confusion and psychological chaos.  Everyone is out for themselves, driven
compulsively to consume more. More. 
In the West we certainly have more, but no one is really satisfied.  That is why our cultural sensitives
have been streaming to India, where they pass trendy Indians rushing in the
other direction.

            In
fact, there is great darkness abroad, individual and collective darkness.  It is as though the world were a spinning
wheel that has gone off its axle. 
It is for this reason that the great treasure to be found in India is
more valuable than ever, because it is the authentic promise of light in the
darkness.

 

            To
really understand this we must go deeper into the question of what we are in? Your
Indian ancestors understood that our well-being in this life is intimately related to
the way we answer this question and live it out.  The question is not mere philosophical curiosity, but vitally
existential.  Getting it wrong
leads to the suffering we are in today.

            In
Western culture, the prevailing answer to our question is that we are temporary
visitors in the factual world of all and everything that we call the universe
or the cosmos.  We became expert at
studying this world through science and manipulating it through technology. These are enviable achievements, but as
it turns out, not the way to the treasure, because the underlying assumption is
basically erroneous.  In fact the
idea that the treasure can be reached through such objective and empirical
methods is fundamentally misleading.

            Prior
to being in this world we are actually in consciousness.  In the West our academics know very
little about this. Stephen Hawking, the famous Cambridge cosmologist, once told
me we can’t know anything about consciousness, because it is not measurable. Your
ancestors fundamentally disagreed. In fact, one of them, Gautam Buddha, arguably
the greatest of all treasure mappers, gave us to understand that mere knowledge
as such is the booby prize.  When questions
about the nature of objective reality were put to him, he dismissed them
outright: they do not fit the case.

            Well,
what then does fit the case?

            Consciousness
is more basic than the real world. 
The world is only actual if it
is present to you, and this actual presence
is what I mean by consciousness. What we are in, the subjective and objective world present to consciousness,
has been called the kosmos, with a k, as opposed to the mere objective cosmos studied
by Hawking, spelled with a c.

            In
fact real existential knowing is not knowledge, as such, but gnosis (skt. Jnan-).  Knowledge is facts: gnosis is existential awareness of your
own being.  Knowledge deals with
facts: gnosis is understanding the awareness into which you were born.

            Your
ancestors understood that attaining the treasure is not a matter of knowing
information, what is to be known, but
of how the real gnosis can take
place.  The Indian genius was fundamentally
pragmatic, practical, because they discovered what works in consciousness, what
works in human existence.  They
discovered the nature of gnosis.

            So
today I want to drive home two basic things about the fundamental pragmatism of
Indian genius.

 

-Truth is not philosophy or science, but a state of being.

-Therefore you have to negate propositions or theories, while evoking
the state of gnosis and showing how to reach it.

 

One Treasure, Many Maps

            There
is a saying that characterizes the genius of India.

 

            Truth
is one: wise men call it by many names.

 

            The
great seers of India came up with many, many ways of coming to realize what we
are in. The reality of gnosis, is not attained by science, not even philosophy,
because it cannot be known through empirical research and theory.  It can only be realized through the
cultivation of what you basically already know, but have yet to discern. The
real genius of India was not to state accurately what we are in, but to come up
with the directives for how to intuit and realize it, as that is the only response
that, in Buddha’s words, truly fits the case. 

            Stating
the truth of what we are in is not the real value.  In fact any name for it is always relative.  That is why wise men call it by so many
different names. Truth is not a proposition or theory or metaphysics, but an
experience of gnosis that generalizes into a state of being. Defining and
discussing what we are in is useful only as a map. This is fundamentally different
from the West where knowledge and its technological exploitations are the end
product.  For this reason Western
philosophy can never do justice to the Indian tradition and misunderstands it
– chronically.

            In
the ancient West, achieving the state
of gnosis did exist in the great mystery schools: for instance, the hermetic
schools of Egypt and the classical Greek and Hellenic academies, including
those of Plato and Plotinus.  But
with the rise of Christianity, gnosticism in all its forms was persecuted out
of existence or sent underground into esoteric practices still to be found in
the West.   Since the dream of
Christian Empire faded, the West dreams of a final theory or proposition about
the truth, with an eye towards its technological use to alter or modify what we
are in.

            Philosophizing
is the booby prize. You have to “get it”, “grok it”.  Attaining true gnosis is an intuitive process, informed and
led by the above mentioned satguru at
the center of consciousness, the given awareness we all have of our own being,
which must be cultivated through radical and pragmatic intuition.

 

The Treasure: Achieving the State of Understanding

            Since
truth is a state of being, the question that truly fits the case is how can we realize the truth of what we are in,
that is, experience and exist in a state based on a fundamental understanding
of what we are in. The truth state accords with how things stand with
consciousness. Gnosis is an alignment with the Source producing a natural
rectitude of Being.  You know you
have achieved this state when the frenzy of your addictions grows calm.  You know silence and are content in it,
and above all, you want to be kind.
Realizing and
existing in this state of being is the very nature of true value.            

            Each
religion or path in India was founded by someone who reached the treasure and,
out of compassion for the turmoil and dis-ease of others, set down the map by
which he attained it.  Others
follow him and make of his map a religion or mystical path. India’s infinite religious
paths and disciplines of contemplation may seem confused and bewildering, but
each was once the vehicle by which someone attained the treasure.

            This
brings us to the second point I want to drive home.  Since the treasure is not a proposition or a scientific theory,
you have to discourage or negate the tendency to find and settle upon it
intellectually and instead, evoke the state of gnosis and show how to reach it.

            The
gnosis of what we are actually in can only be grasped intuitively, but those
who have attained this treasure have left us their maps. The truth is one
treasure, but the many names are many paths, many maps. I suspected this by
studying comparative religions and confronting India’s astonishing array of
religions.  But I really honed in
on it by studying the Upanishads, the ancient completion of the Vedas.  Each verse or section suggests a
different way of presenting what we are in and gives a directive for attaining
the treasure.  Many of these
differing perspectives expressed in the Upanishads have been the basis in their own right for established religions
or paths . 

            On
the surface, this is very bewildering, but the very fact that the question gets
approached in different ways is actually an advantage for the serious treasure
seeker, a way to encourage the given intuition of gnosis and discourage engaging
in fabricating mere “know-it-all” theory or philosophy.  Zen deals with this very elegantly. If you
start philosophizing or behaving like a know-it-all, the Master just slaps you.

            I
am going to demonstrate this aspect of Indian Genius: how one intuitive truth
can be expressed in differing ways.

 

The Mandala.

 

                                       
      

 

            When
those who see the truth want to display the totality of consciousness, they use
a mandala, the figure with a center. The visual metaphor is a wheel on its
axis.  In India mandalas are used a
great deal in Tantra, which is concerned with achieving the totality of
consciousness, and also in the many glorious Tibetan Buddhist tangkas that
express their view of the totality of consciousness.

            Like
all mandalas, this one is only a graphic metaphor, a map intended to show the
landscape of what you are in, and to
indicate the way to the treasure, what
you should do
.  This is the
essential intention built into the form of the Upanishads. “This is how things
stand, therefore do so and so.”  I will
illustrate this by showing you several ways of elucidating this mandala. Each
map I will describe is a different way of displaying the kosmos, each a
metaphor intended to provoke your own intuitive gnosis.

            What
these maps have in common is represented in the basic features of the graphic.  The center orients the whole and holds
it all together. The black square at the center is surrounded by a white circle
enclosed in a larger black square. The central black square is identical in
shape to the outer square.  This
identity is essential to each map and to the way to the treasure itself.  The mandala is static, but it implies a
dynamic, a true gravity, so to speak. Think of the inner square as having a gravitational pull to expand
and incorporate the white circle and fulfill its identity with the outer black
square.  The center is drawn to
unify and contextualize all that is in the circle by realizing its own identity and
unity with the outer black square. 
Another way of saying this is that the outer black square draws the
inner square to expand and incorporate the circle, ultimately becoming one with
its outer identity.  The “whole” is
the oneness of the black squares, which incorporates the white circle, as it
were, setting it properly on its axle.  Everything must be aligned with the center. The true gravity of
alignment is the fundamental dynamic of consciousness, and allowing yourself to
be drawn by it is the basic possibility for you to become one.  This union is the treasure.

            Remember,
as you strain to understand these formulaic metaphors, each is saying the same
basic thing and is only a portrayal of what your inborn awareness already
knows. Try to relax into this awareness, rather than strain to understand.

 

                                     
   

 

            Metaphor
1. Computer: Virtual reality

            This
map uses the metaphor of the reality generated by a computer as it is
experienced by you, the operator.

- The black square is the hard drive and operating
system. 

- The white circle is the software and the data on the
screen. 

- The center of all this is you, the computer operator.

            The
center square as your own awareness corresponds to the outer square as the hard
drive and operating system.  Keep
your eye on this functional identity between the black squares.  This identity is the one so ingeniously
streamlined and simplified by Jobs as he kept aligning user and hardware. 

 

            So,
what are we in? 

            In
virtual reality, you the operator are in the reality projected by the software
and data, which functions on the basis of the hardware.  But often it gets corrupted.

 

            What
should you do?

            If
your virtual reality is malfunctioning, you need to reboot, meaning everything
goes back to its given form in the hard drive, because that is its source.

            Please
absorb this metaphor, and let us move on.

 

                       
                

 

            Metaphor
2:  Theism

            All
religions featuring belief in a supreme God or deity construe the mandala in
the same way.

- The outer black Square is God, almighty creator and
sustainer.  Expressing True
Gravity, the deity sends emissaries of himself into the world as saviors for
those who, in their own response to True Gravity, place faith in him.

- The inner white circle is the world, or the worldly
reality, created by the God, but largely conceived as vanity, sin, or
suffering.

- The inner black square is the I-self, created by God in
His own image, as reflected in the identity of the inner and outer square
forms. This I-self is sometimes figured as the soul having its own expression
of True Gravity as a longing for God.

 

            What
are you in?

            You
are an I- self in the Image of God Almighty.  You are in the world or reality. The nature of the world is
vanity, sometimes called sin.  But
it is ultimately and imminently presided over by God Almighty, who issues forth the
means, vehicle, or incarnation by which to “know Him’.

            Such
religions usually depend upon the belief that this is the one and only truth.

 

            What
should you do?

            You
should forsake the ways of the world and come to know God, through study of the
scripture, faith and prayer. 
Prayer is communion with God. 
In this, the I-self is often supported by inborn divine awareness (the
Holy Spirit) and by various teachers or champions, who provide the means to
unite with or rectify oneself with God. 
This process is expedited by uncompromising faith in the teacher/ helpers/
champions projected to exist in the world, emanations of God such as various
gurus or saints, divine figures such as Krishna, prophets, such as Mohammed, or
special teachers, such as Jesus.

            Union
with God is experienced as salvation, eternal life.  It is celebrated with rituals of communion.  Union with God is expressed in the Old
Testament with the words “I am that I am”.  In Christianity, the unique and fundamental possibility for union of
the I-self with God is Christ. 

 

                           
             


            Metaphor
3: Your Existential Reality,

This portrays where you stand and what you actually
experience.

- The outer black square is Being, your given nature, which you have in common with all humans, by virtue
of which all humanity is one.  It
is full of potential, but not yet actual.

- The white circle is the reality in which you dwell, all
this – your subjective and objective world — as you experience and understand
it.

- You, the inner square, are the chooser at the center of
your actual reality, your universe, but in a greater context, you are also the
same as the one Being you share with all humanity.

           

            What
are you in?

             You are the center of Being surrounded
by your subjectively understood everyday reality.  However, your everyday must accord with your given reality
as a human being.  Otherwise your
reality is, so to speak, off its axis.

 

             What
should you do?

            As
your awareness is given and has the form of Being itself, you must develop in
such a way as to accord with Being. 
Therefore, expand your awareness to know your Being.  This rectifies your world.

 

                                          

 

            Metaphor
4:  Buddhist Mind Only

            This
metaphor portrays the Buddhist idea that only mind exists.  There is no real world at all, no real
facts, only interpretations, only the mind. 

- Outer Black Square – the Absolute Mind, the almighty base
of all mind common to all humanity. 
This source surrounds the…

- White Circle – your relative mind that yields all reality as you understand it.  Effectively, this means anything that
IS, any fact.  If you can say
something IS, you are populating your relative reality. This includes your objective
understanding of the cosmos as well as your personal reality.  This reality is relative to your perspective,
understanding, and the prevailing way that the world is understood. This relativistic
understanding of the world has become fashionable as the basis of Western
post-modernism.

- The Center – your given, inborn awareness.  I have been calling this the sat guru, because it is this given
awareness alone, when cultivated into gnosis, that is capable of bringing
together the reality of the relative mind with the nature of the absolute mind.

 

            What
are you in?

            You
are the center of Mind. Your innate awareness is the given unity of the
relative and absolute minds.  Your
inborn awareness alone can bring them together in gnosis.  This is your unequivocal responsibility.

           

            What
should you do?   

            Find a means to activate
and cultivate your inborn awareness in order to realize the systemic unity of
the relative and absolute minds. 
This is the basic directive of disciplines such as yoga, tantra, and
buddhist contemplation.

 


            Metaphor 5: Vedanta

            This
is the traditional philosophical elucidation of the Upanishads.  Vedanta means, the end or final purpose
of the vedas, which is to discover the treasure.  It has many words for all of these aspects.  I will give a few.

- The black Square – The almighty ground of all reality (brahman) is your true Being.

- The white circle – You dwell in a reality of names and
forms, (namarup).  All of this moves together elegantly through
lifetimes as your reality and infernally as your fate (samsara).  And all of it
is maya, a wonderful word that means
fullness that is actually an illusion. 
You are in maya, a fabulous illusion that distracts you from your true
Being, Brahman.

- The center – You are the atman, usually translated as “self.”  In truth, atman is the same as brahman. The two squares are
the same.

 

            What
are you in? 

            Maya,
an illusory fulness that is a distraction from your true self (atman), which is
actually Brahman.   Maya is the world of names and forms,
which moves together in a grand evolving reality over many lifetimes.  It obscures, conceals, but finally
reveals Brahman.

 

            What
should you do? 

            Come
to realize through gnosis that you are brahman-atman

This is a very beautiful metaphor for an authentic
experience, but as it is an easy formula, Vedanta tends to become mere know-it-all
philosophy.

 


 

            Metaphor 6: Actuality

            Upanishad means “sitting at the feet”.  The language in the Upanishads is not
philosophical, but radically simple. 
It often plays on linguistic ambiguities inherent in Sanskrit that
ingeniously reflect the actual ambiguity of existence, defying one’s philosophical
tendency to become a know-it-all. 
Effectively, it acts like the slap of the Zen master.

- The outer square – That, whose nature is luminous bliss
and clarity, the actual base of consciousness.

- The Inner circle – This, any or all this.  Whatever actually is in your world.

- The center -  This
goes back to what I said earlier, the world “exists” only insofar as you are
conscious of it.  Your
consciousness or presence makes it actual.
You are the actuality of This.  And here is the slap. The word atman is not a noun naming a self, but actually
a reflexive pronoun that means “itself.” 
Itself means the actuality of both This and That. Again note the
identical form of the two black shapes indicating the identity of That and
Itself. You are the actuality (the Itself) of This as That.  Does this blow your mind? Slap!

           

            So,
what are we in? 

            Actuality.
You are presently the Itself or actuality of That manifest as any This.  All This is the manifestation of That,
but you do not realize it as such. 
You are the Itself of any This, the realization (gnosis) of which
actually reveals That.  

            This
clarifies our basic question while preventing you from settling intellectually.  This Itself of That is the actuality of
“what we are in?  You are That.

 

            What
should you do?

            Know
That!

            That is
nothingness on the one hand and on the other, the ultimate pure form of our
human consciousness, what we truly are in.  To align with it clarifies everything, all This.  It is clarity upon emptiness.

            Enlightenment
is the light that happens when That is realized as Itself. Knowing or realizing
That Itself is the treasure.

 

            True
Gravity

            True
gravity is the force of innate awareness to know Itself as That.  There is a progression to this
realization.  At first one gains knowledge
of a map.  One discovers a religion
or path that seems true or attractive. 
With time, attention, and dedication, one comes to realize the gnosis
behind the map, the intuition of That blossoms and grows.  This leads to a sense of unity with all
life, all sensate beings, as the expression of That.  One becomes compelled by the kindness of compassion for all
humans, all beings. This realization of unity unfolds into bliss, and
finally as Itself, or inborn awareness, unites with That, there is light, there
is splendor.

            The
light or illumination of true actuality
clarifies and simplifies all This, putting everything in proportion.  This profound simplification yields
authentic contentment, the great peace described in Sanskrit with the word Shantih … often repeated to express
the state itself: shantih shantih shantih.

            True
Gravity leads thus to the treasure.

            None
of our metaphorical portrayals of the mandala is the truth, but all point to
the same flowering of intuitive realization.  Atman is your given inborn awareness of the unity of This
and That.  It is subject to its own
form of gravity to unify This with That, which is true actuality, our true home.
 Any real map follows this True Gravity.           

            American
philosophy has come up with the signature methodology of Western success:
pragmatism. America
eschewed grand metaphysical theories for what is effective.
What works
is what is true.  But this is the
pragmatism of This, from science to technology.  Indian genius created a pragmatism of consciousness, the practices
by which Itself is able to follow its true gravity to realize the unity of This
and That.           

            With
keen and passionate insight, the vast Indian tradition, including Jainism and
Buddhism, reveals this gravity by virtue of the incredible variety and richness
of its oral traditions, scriptures, methodologies, and religions. All follow
the True Gravity from This to That. 
The variety of maps are part of Indian genius. None really defines the
truth, but all of them point the way.

            Indeed,
there are so many ways in India, that each Indian effectively has their own
unique path, called a sadhana.  Any Indian with a Sanskrit name may
likely find their sadhana hidden in their name.  Osho gave me the name, Anand Veereshwar.  I no longer call myself by this name, but
I have spent years exploring the way it indicated.  It proved to be a directive pointing down a path whose true
gravity led into the ancient wisdom of the tantric practices associated with
Siva, the great god of transformation.

            So,
if you were given a name derived from Sanskrit, I would wager that it is the
trace of a map, from which you can find your unique path.  By following its true gravity you can
make your own way to the treasure. This is likely to mean disciplined
contemplation of one form or another, but I encourage you to follow your true
gravity with enthusiasm.  That is
the Indian tradition.  It is the
genius within your genes.

            The
fundamental directive of the Upanishad is Tat
tvam asi
 (You are That).  This is not a metaphysical statement
intended to puff up your knowledge of all This.  It is a shorthand report of the experience of True Gravity
towards the ultimate human experience and state, the fruition of being human.

            Therefore,
Know That.

 

            Darkness
– This without That                        

            Now
we have an entirely new way to understand the darkness with which we began to
describe what we are in.  The great
darkness of human existence provokes the urgency to know That.

            As
expressed in the concept of maya, all This is an illusion. Without the
awareness of That, This is pathological, an existential darkness. In fact on
its own This becomes delusional and addictive. Trying to follow the True Gravity
is difficult in the darkness, because all This is demonically seductive and
fascinating.  Look around you:
everyone is enchanted with all This, driven to manipulate a better place for
themselves in it.

            This
truth is elegantly clarified in one of my favorite passages from the Isa Upanishad.

 

            Those
who do not know are in darkness.

            Those
who think they know are in greater darkness still.

 

            Unawareness
of That Itself creates a negative vacuum, the abyss of nothingness, whose
essential symbol is death. The more we are focused on This only, the more we
lack our base, our true identity and ground. Turning away from the luminous splendor
of Brahman/ Atman, a vacuum is created that sucks us into fundamental anxiety.  To portray the force and power of this vacuum,
the Indian ancestors came up with all the demons to be found in India’s
mythological traditions.  I think
of Ravana in the Ramayana.  This
demon king represents all the force of this vacuum.

            For
the most part we are largely unconscious of this abyss of nothingness, but we
may be aware of its symptoms. Primordial among these is fear of our own death.
Turning away from nothingness figured as death, your fascination and obsession
with This becomes an end in itself. 
You become lost in all This, driven to control or consume it.  As we clutch at sex, money, and power,
we may notice that our existence becomes a compulsive need to fill a vacuum, anything
to avoid facing the fundamental fear.  This generalized state of anxiety occasionally erupts in what
existentialists call angst.  They
consider this angst useful, because it forces you to authentically face the
reality of your alienation from That, a realization that might throw you into
the true gravitational field.

            Thus
the passage tells us that those who do not know That Itself (that is, most of
us) live in this pathology of darkness, the root of all dis-ease. On a
collective level it is the state of great agitation that characterizes Western
civilization.  As Western culture
has become world culture, we witness this pathological state as the rabid
materialism of the world.  Anything
and everything to fill the terrible void and avoid facing it.  More.  More.

            But
the passage goes further.  Those
who think they know — the know-it-alls who have This all figured out — are
the ones whose suffering is greatest of all, because for all their puffed up knowledge
of This, they are wandering their existence fundamentally unconscious of That.

            To
give up your know-it-all posture and authentically experience darkness is to
understand the value of the treasure. 
This is why the existentialists value angst.

           

            Let
us recap to this point. Atman, the actuality or Itself of what you truly are,
is the blissful unity of This and That. Following true gravity is absolutely
essential to well-being, because in actuality, all This is truly meaningful
only in relation to That. The alignment of Itself with That neutralizes its
intrinsically delusional and frantic nature, undercutting the negative vacuum
and filling it with the clarity of Atman and the light of Brahman.  When all This is illuminated with That
Itself, Brahman/Atman, the result is radical simplification, suppleness, and
illumination of all This.  The
wheel is back on its axle, your center has aligned with its axis, and there is
great peace.  Shantih Shantih Shantih

            This
is the treasure.

 

            The
Velocity of Delusion

            Maya is a wonderful word.  It captures the attractive fullness of
all This, and at the same time, the obsessive distraction away from our inborn
awareness of true being.  In flight
from the angst of the negative void, the desperation and compulsion of emptiness,
it is impossible to see This as it actually is.  We do not grasp its real actuality, Itself.

            Basically
the delusion of maya makes us look for the light of That in all the wrong places.  We call it the pursuit of happiness.
Financial success will do it. 
Glamour will do it.  Romance
and sex will do it.  Power will do
it.  There is great velocity behind
these delusional pursuits.

            As
the world has tended to become one, we watch disaffected Westerners wandering
East looking for That.  Know-it-alls,
like Steve Jobs and many others, including myself, have followed the true gravity
by coming East.  In fact, where
East and West really come together, almost every real innovation is traceable
back to the East.

            But
back when I was an academic at Varanasi Hindu University, I observed to my dismay
the counter phenomenon of many Indians wanting to rush West.  The philosophers in my department all
wanted to justify their tradition in terms of know-it-all British philosophy, a
hopeless task, since That is not to be found, much less considered, in British
philosophy, obsessed as it is with the language of This. The young men on the streets
wanted to buy my jeans.  I found it
pathetic that these Indians, heirs to their great tradition, thought the West
had what they wanted. Now of course, this whole trend has flowered into a rush
towards Intelligence Technology and the wealth it brings.  They are bringing it about.  The hotel where this conference is
taking place is just like one in America.

            So
it is with this cultural velocity.  Westerners are rushing East for That: Easterners, rushing
West for This.  We are ships
passing in the darkness of night.

 

            To
India with Love

            So,
I stand before you in all humility and awe to honor True Gravity.  I encourage intelligent Indians to
respect and revere the genius of your own tradition, which has clarified this True
Gravity as no other.  As the darkness
of all This threatens to overwhelm the planet, That is more urgent than ever.

            You
are heirs to a tradition that holds the keys to the survival of our
species.  You are the stewards of
this heritage. But you are giving tech support when what we truly need is
consciousness support.  

            Start
with your Sanskrit name.  What does
it mean?  What does it really mean?  What is its existential imperative? Follow the True Gravity
of meaning back into the tradition that will reveal your real nature,
which is enlightenment.  Realize
the true ancient genius of India by experiencing this truth within yourself,
thus aligning with your Source. Then, please, bring it to the world.

            In
the darkness we are in, That Itself alone will rectify you with your world and
bring you home into the light. 
This is the greatest treasure, vital to yourself and to all of humanity
if we are to survive.

 

 

 

What is Tantra?

There is much confusion around Tantra and its practices.  Here, this ancient practice is contrasted with yoga and clarified in terms of left- and right-handed versions, as well as the use of the practice today.

What is Tantra?

From the beginning of time, we humans have been fascinated by the power of sexuality. In the Western tradition, this fascination was early dispatched with the story of Adam and Eve, in which sexuality is viewed as an evil serpent that removes us from the favor of God. The West has never really overcome this outlook.

 Other great traditions – notably Hindu, Buddhist and Taoist – have viewed sexuality in other ways. Primary among these is the ancient disposition coming out of the Indian Subcontinent to view sexuality as a means toward the highest possible spiritual evolution – the achievement of enlightenment itself. This basic tendency and the practices that have grown up around it are called Tantra.

Perfection versus Wholeness

In the Western religious tradition, the ideal reigns. The goal of life is to attain a state of ideal purity: to perfect oneself by refraining from undesirable ways of being, understood as bad, and cleaving to the ideal of the good. This idealism is associated in India with Yoga. Its disadvantage is that it can feed a kind of spiritual egotism that ultimately sabotages well-being. It does this in part by creating its nemesis, the Shadow, which acts out in a twisted way all that the ideal rejects.

  By contrast, the purpose of Tantra is to achieve wholeness, incorporating and integrating all that one is into a greater whole. The discipline of Tantra is based on surrendering to what one fears and where one tends. The ecstatic states achieved thereby lead to a new, all-inclusive awareness, which is a kind of pathway to the ultimate bliss of true self-knowledge.

Two Kinds of Tantra

Tantra has come down through the millennia in two different forms of practice.  
Left Handed Tantra focuses upon self-awareness and surrender, following desires and tendencies to their wildest extremes, but with very sharpened awareness, which over time produces temperance. This has always been known as a dangerous path, because it tends toward addictive behavior, which eventually requires great awareness and daunting discipline to overcome.



Right Handed Tantra is known also as Tantric Yoga or seated Tantra. This highly developed method configures consciousness through the imagery of the spine or a central channel running through the main vertical axis of the body containing the nodes of consciousness, called “chakras.”  Each Tantric system has its own scheme, which may include as few as three chakras or as many as 108. An example of this would be the seven chakra model, familiar to many Westerners, in which consciousness is divided into the nodes of survival, sexuality, power, emotion, intuition, intellect and spirit.

The Basic Tantric Disposition

The yogic tendency to achieve perfection in the ideal has proven to have very toxic side effects. As Freud discovered, it leads to the creation of the Super-ego with its destructive repressive mechanisms, which, untempered, generate most psychological pathology.  Upon this insight, the entire project of yoga to achieve the ideal gradually has been superseded by the Tantric value of achieving wholeness. Living out one’s tendencies and desires with full awareness leads to a healthy way of being which is not simply all inclusive, but conducive to a more integrated and fulfilling life.

  With this Tantric attitude comes a new attention to the natural and to the earth, and therefore to the body, its needs and intelligence. It brings forth a new kind of respect for the body as the vehicle of consciousness, producing greater awareness of the importance of natural nutrition and the physical culture originating in disciplines from the East, such as Ayurveda and Tai Chi.

Hedonism vs Realization

There are those who see Tantra as an opportunity to increase the pleasure of sex. This it definitely is and has always been, but Tantric masters understand this to be the greatest danger of Tantra. This hedonistic attitude displaces the all-important aspect of awareness and encourages a distraction in favor of “sexual ecstasy,” intensified pleasure that tends to throw practitioners into dangerous, and ultimately self-destructive addiction.  This trap preempts the transcendent gratification possible through the use of such ecstasy to attain the bliss of true consciousness, the ultimate home of the Self.



Tantric Practice Today

Since the sexual revolution of the Seventies, many Westerners have taken up Tantra and Tantric practices.  Notable among these is Margot Anand, with her ground-breaking instruction book, The Art of Sexual Ecstasy.  By and large, modern Western Tantra is used to enhance sexual experience, with a mere insubstantial nod to the actual path of enlightenment and its hazards.

The sexual practices in Tantra have traditionally been designated for male/female partners only.  In a recent book, The ManTantra Letters, however, two intrepid sexual adventurers from Oxford explore Tantric love between men.  By means of a letter exchange, Nathan James, who is single, and Victor Bliss, who has a partner, share their exploration of self-realization through Tantric love between men. Both Left Handed Tantra and Right Handed Tantra are given equal value and are explored and practiced at the same time, in complementary fusion. The book covers substantially and honestly the dangers of Tantra and its shadow — possessiveness, jealousy, and addiction.

OSAMA BIN LADEN: An American Heresy


IN THIS ARTICLE
May Day 2011 saw the ignominious end of Osama bin Laden, American public enemy #1.  The “justice done,” however, was the ancient Semitic kind, “an eye for an eye.” The swift dispatch of Osama to the bottom of the sea without fair trial violated the keystones of the Enlightenment, the very principles upon which the nation was founded, the Rights of Man and justice for all. But these ethical ideals call for an even higher enlightenment, whose prophet Americans idolize every Martin Luther King Day.  The much-vaunted “dream” of Dr King called the nation to the real outcome of enlightened sanctity — compassion and non-violence — whose true meaning, as Dr King clarified, is “to see the enemy’s point of view.” Aside from the spiritual and moral value of this dream, it is pragmatic: “For from this view we may… see the basic weakness of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of…the opposition.” Was America’s finest moment of the decade actually a grievous regression from its true aspiration and opportunity?

Osama bin Laden:  An American Heresy

We got ‘im!!!  

With this shout of victory on May Day 2011, America erupted into a giddy jingoistic orgy.  Flags waved frantically as great tributes were offered in every gathering place.  Heroic American testosterone was on display for all the world to see.  At last, at last, the evil enemy is dead. VICTORY!!!

It was the greatest American day in ten years.

Sadly, the bad guy had not been finished off by the super-cowboy who initiated and failed for seven years at this “dead or alive” drama.   Strange ironies in the American subconscious underlay the fact that the deed was accomplished by a misto, half white and half pure African.  But of course this could be overlooked, especially since the President, master of this coup, was within days of having revealed the birth documents finally proving he is AMERICAN!!!

It is worthwhile to see Obama’s coup from a Machiavellian point of view.  The President put an end to all grumblings that he is only a progressive woos with no decisiveness and backbone.  On the contrary, he followed exactly the advice of Machiavelli in The Prince, where that Renaissance master of power insists that a leader, especially one who aspires to govern with goodness and justice, must, early in his tenure, demonstrate by some act of ruthless audacity, his true range and capacity. This act summarily challenges any opposition that may be gathering in rebellious minds.  It is a Renaissance version of “Walk softly, but carry a big stick.” This alone makes it possible to accomplish any subsequent good.   Obama overwhelmed the hawks and freaked out his pacifist constituency early on by dramatically increasing the surge in Afghanistan.  But the Mayday weekend which saw the end of bin Laden was a virtual Machiavellian display.  On Thursday with muted flourish, Obama produced the birth certificate.  On Saturday night, at the traditional White House Correspondents roasting dinner, with rapier wit, the President brought down the noisy pop-buffoon, Donald Trump.  On Sunday he eliminated through high-tech insinuation the emblematic genius of terrorism.  The unsightly corpse of public enemy number one was promptly discharged to the bottom of the sea in one quick irreversible coup de grace.  The world was aghast.   Machiavelli would cheer.

-How do we describe what happened to bin Laden?

What do you call it when you storm the house and bedroom of an apparently unarmed man and shoot him dead?  It begs the question when he is public enemy number one, but I think the word is “murder,” or is it “assassination?  But under the circumstances, these are far too loaded, so perhaps the more neutral “dispatched” is best.

Whatever word is appropriate, character assassination immediately followed.  ‘The coward hid behind his wife.’  ‘The fusty old egomaniac sat around clicking his remote to view footage of himself on television.’  When pornography was found on one of the many computers in the compound, the loud implication was that, when the old man wasn’t watching himself on television, he was probably jacking off to porno.

-Weak objections

The din of American self-congratulation and chest thumping was deafening. Many American voices were silent, bemused.  A few dissenting voices took exception. Michael Moore championed a barely audible suggestion, that by rights Osama should have been captured and brought to trial, this having something to do with the legal base of the rights of man, the declared substratum of the founding of America.  

Of course there were outraged voices from the Middle East, such as that of Ismail Haniya, head of the Hamas government dutifully elected by the Palestinian people: “We condemn the assassination and the killing of an Arab holy warrior… We regard this as a continuation of the American policy based on oppression and the shedding of Muslim and Arab blood.”

The heroic dispatch of Osama needed no justification in America. The villain transgressed the sacred American identity, a narrative largely unchallenged by public opinion or press.  Never mind the founding fathers and their universal rights, the real narrative clarified by 911 was that America is sacrosanct and special.  “Special” means America can attack foreign lands and kill innocents as ”collateral damage,” because it offers sincere apologies and democracy.  However, foreigners do not attack America.  America is invincible.  Attacks on American soil are impossible, or at least inconceivable.  Americans are sacrosanct, all of them innocent.  In the face of this narrative, 911 created a cognitive dissonance, a kind of national psychosis, which lasted for ten years until the one responsible could be (not brought to justice) but dispatched.  With the death of bin Laden, this narrative snapped back into place.  This was the real celebration.  Our narrative — the one that makes America safe and Americans righteous and secure –- was restored.  What a relief!

This national narrative is so engraved and inviolate that no Americans can break it.  It is the basis of our national identity.  Obama declared in his late night announcement on May 1 that “Justice has been done.” This is not the justice of our Constitution, nor the justice of the Nazi war trials, nor the justice of the World Court to which everyone but America is subject. The justice he was referring to is ‘eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth,’ the justice of revenge.   It is only the “special” narrative of American invincibility and superiority that supports this use of “justice.”  

There is however another point of view – one that must have been felt in the hearts of some Americans, but so counter to the politically correct American narrative, that it could not be uttered.  It is an opportunity missed, arising from a view of an evolved America, one evinced by America’s much-vaunted modern hero, also slain, Martin Luther King.

“Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and non-violence, when
it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to
know of his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed
see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we
may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are
called the opposition.”
                           Martin Luther King  On the Vietnam War  April 1967

Where was this voice in the din of American chest thumping?  Perhaps this “Great American,” to whom our leaders duly pay lip-tribute every March, is too heretical.  Martin Luther King is calling not to the “special” narrative of American patriotism, but to the principles of that patriotism, embodied in our code of justice, but further, to the spiritual aspiration that grows out of those principles, the evolutionary inevitability of following those principles back into the source of the Good.  This was the voice of Martin Luther King.

Could it be that the dispatch of Osama bin Laden was not, as the celebrants supposed, America’s finest hour?

Following Dr King’s lead, let us open to a greater picture.

The fact is that America is not a completed entity: it is a recently conceived experiment, based on the ideas of the Enlightenment as to the universal rights of man and evolving towards the higher Good.  Students of anthropology and world history can discern shifting viewpoints that represent a universal evolution into the Good, this evolution being the ancient promise of Plato and those that have followed him.

There is a pattern to this evolution.  Each stage transcends but incorporates earlier stages.  The pattern starts at the tooth and claw of survival.  It rises up through tribal unities based on the adversity of “them and us.”   This tribalism accretes to larger entities, often united by one religion or belief system, fortified by the conviction that “our religion is the only right one.” The evolution then moves up through the cowboy heroism of good and evil and evolves into civic order based in national identities enforced by monarchy.  This was the system in place in Europe at the time of our founding fathers, where our special patriotic narrative is firmly rooted. The reaction to that Europe produced the Enlightenment values of the universal rights of man, which transcend any national narrative.  This is the progressive basis upon which our founding fathers created America and our code of law and justice.  But from here, our boomer generation, who traveled the world, moved away from good and evil into the capacity to walk in the shoes of the other, a multi-perspective view which advances universal value into sovereign universal individual worth.  

The higher stages of evolution have always transcended the lower, but do not necessarily incorporate them.  The dispatch of Osama demonstrates that regression back to earlier stages, in this case the cowboy heroism of ‘good and evil,’ is always possible.  The narcissism of the boomer generation all too often looks like “my way is the right way,” which can regress quickly to tooth and claw.  

But Dr King was pointing to an even higher level than the Enlightenment, taking the multi-perspective view to a more advanced stage of evolution. This is the principle arising out of sovereign individual worth — compassion and non-violence.  It is probably too much to say that the founding principles of the US were compassion and non-violence: they were rather the universal values of the rights of man.  However, when every year we commemorate Martin Luther King Day, we celebrate the spiritual aspiration of the nation, grounded in the rights of man of the Enlightenment, but transcending this into compassion and non-violence, benchmarks of a higher, planetary enlightenment. Martin Luther King articulated a dream that has been there hovering above the American constitution, first formulated by the American Transcendentalists in the nineteenth century, and others in the twentieth century inspired by the vision of Gandhi, notably Dr King who clarified this vision as the evolutionary target of civilization, a true transcendental state, and the true dream of America as the outcome of its founding principles.

One benchmark of this new enlightenment is a multi-perspective world view, inconceivable in lower stages of national loyalty, but appreciated in the rise of the boomer generation, and advanced by Martin Luther King’s challenge as the true dream of America — to be able to adopt the point of view of the enemy.

So let us be clear: at the level of tribal/national revenge we triumphed:  at the level of our true national aspiration we failed with resolute blindness.

-What would Dr King’s “mature view of true compassion” look like in this case?

If you could ever reach into the hearts of the dispossessed of the world, what would you find?  What is the perspective of people in the great majority of the world?  

Of course the American narrative is that we are the world leader, compassionate, brave, the very best.  As the great cowboy said, those who would destroy us hate our freedom.  By and large, the world demographic of Caucasians believe, indeed live by this narrative, including all of North America and Europe, rebuilt after the Second World War out of American beneficence.  These whites comprise about 13% of the world population.  The rest, the vast majority of the world, are people of color.  Of course those non-whites who enjoy the world of the whites, comprise maybe 10% more.  Another 10% who envy the world of the whites also probably accord with the American narrative.  But what about the others, still the great majority of the world?   Here we enter the realm of heresy as we ask, what about their narrative?

-Hatred of America: “the enemy’s point of view”

Jean Ziegler, a Swiss philosopher/reporter has lived for many years in this other world.  He has written a report, La Heine de l’Occident, “The Hatred of the West.”  The book is replete with incontrovertible evidence, but it is so heretical that it has been translated only into German, that language belonging to a people whose narratives of superiority have been obliterated, not once but twice in the last century.  Having the narratives of the enemy thrust down its throat twice has led to a rich process of self-examination utterly unknown to the English speaking world.

-“the enemy’s… assessment of ourselves”

Are we the world leader or the world bully?
Boomers who have traveled the backpack route of the world will recognize what Ziegler reports.  He writes of resentments that are the givens for most people in the world.  He asks this question, why is the hatred of America breaking out now?

As communication shrinks the world, the imbalances of wealth and the contradiction between demography and power has become painfully clear.   13% of the world population has dominated and exploited the resources of the entire planet for the last 300 years; first through conquest and in many cases, enslavement, then colonization, then in the last century the corporatization of the world. The communications revolution somehow has evoked a spontaneous revival of the wounded memories of these last three centuries. While this progression has accrued great wealth and power for those 13%, it has created untold, unrecorded miseries for the people of color, particularly in the southern hemisphere. This has set up a structure of imbalance and injustice in that world that constitutes what is known as “structural violence,” or suffering due to the ver
y structure of the world economic system.  This violence is not the work of “evil” individuals or even nations, it is in the very structure of things established in three centuries as the ‘world order.’

In that other world the symbol of this was the World Trade Center.

The enormous military of the privileged world holds this structure together with all its might.  Those who struggle against this structural violence are subject to all the fury of the Western arsenal of advanced technology and weaponry.  One thinks of those photographs of our high tech burdened troops next to the Taliban, with their rifles and traditional dress.  Those who suffer and are killed resisting this might are either “insurgents” against the system or, else the innocents who happen to be in the way, neatly catalogued in the American canon as “collateral damage.”  

The symbol of this is the Pentagon.

The West created and supports a system of structural violence in which far more than thirteen percent are victims, and which it enforces with overwhelming military power dominating the ex-colonial states, supporting and reinforcing regimes that fortify their exploitation and bring great riches to their leadership.  The result for the great majority is poverty, debasement and untold suffering, which has fueled the recent uprising of the Arab populace.   At the same time, America with great fanfare and self-righteousness preaches human rights.  This is seen in the rest of the world, not as blind naivete, which it arguably is, but as hateful hypocrisy.

The symbol of this is the White House where dwells the leader and figurehead of the “free” corporatocracy world.

Now, in the last five years, this structural imbalance is reflected in a steady but deadly rise in the price of food and sustenance in these countries.  Starvation is advancing, slowly but surely.  The situational violence of food shortage is a direct result of the systemic aggression. Westerners are completely blind to this, making their surface protestations of human rights all the more hateful.

Who can speak up against this?  What does it take to make the West realize what it is doing?  Any thinking person in that other world has to ask these questions.

The compassionate view towards the losers of the modern world evinced by Martin Luther King can clarify many movements of the modern world incomprehensible to the White Man.  The case against colonialism has been made vigorously before, probably most visibly by the Japanese in the mid-twentieth century.  To drive the White Man out of Asia was its ostensible rationale leading to the War of the Pacific.  This noble goal, supported by many thinking people in the colonial world, was however co-opted by the true Great Satan, the power lust that infests the powerful in all instances.  The political and military leaders of Japan went mad, colluded with the power mad European fascists and had to be stopped.  However, the impulse began as a reaction to the invasion and overwhelming of Asia by the greed of the White Man.  Vietnam was a continuation of this, though Americans naively misread it as ‘creeping communism.’  Martin Luther King understood this, which prompted his call to all Americans to examine themselves in compassion for the people of color, the great majority of the world population.

The Arab countries have their own narrative of Islamic specialness.  The Islamic hegemony has long been practiced and challenged, but is now contradicted by the existence of Israel, which is marginal but used as a focal point. The reasons for the existence of Israel are too well known to rehearse here, but just for a moment, let us try an empathy experiment.  Imagine that the ancient scriptures of an Indian nation, pushed westward and eventually practically eliminated through the lebensraum entitlement of Manifest Destiny, claimed the area of Rhode Island as their true home ordained by the gods of their traditions.  How would Americans react if the UN, in compassion, delivered Rhode Island over to these victims of the Holocaust? How long would it take America to “just get over it”?  This is not an argument, but a thought experiment.  Just think of it. Then you may catch a glimpse of the way Arabs have reacted to Israel.   In like manner, Israel is a thorn in the flesh of the Middle East.   It is a wound so infected, that one wonders how it could ever heal.  Probably about as long as it would take to heal if the Indian nation were thrust upon the American continent. Try this thought experiment on the Indians as they reacted to American settlement, or the Aborigines as Australia was settled, or Hindus as Muslims took their lands to establish Pakistan. This is how compassion works.

By 2001, after the fall of communism, America had been bereft of an enemy for ten years.  911 became the occasion for taking on Al Qaeda as a national enemy.  The cowboy nobly stated that Islam was not the enemy, but he also used the history-loaded “crusade” analogy allowing the ‘us versus them’ tendency in American culture reflexively to identify Islam as the enemy.  This national vengeance provided the velocity to invade Afghanistan and Iraq, with the actual policy to stabilize and advance corporate interests in the Middle East, largely the need to control the supply of oil.  Those who differed with this policy in America were marginalized, and patriots in the target countries (who had nothing to do with 911) were labeled “insurgents” and dispatched accordingly.

Who is going to rebuild the cities of Iraq and Afghanistan demolished by our high tech wonder weaponry?  After the Second World War America paid to rebuild the Europe of its former enemies.  We did this partly because we learned that punishing an enemy, as the Allies had done after the First World War with the Treaty of Versailles, crippled Germany and created the resentments that generated the Second World War.  The Marshall Plan was the creation of a generous and wise America, one that still brings tears to the eyes of many Europeans.  Where is this America?

So if we go back to Haniya’s description of America’s policy, this “brother” also has a viewpoint, the stated policy of America may be something like ‘establishing freedom and democracy in the Middle East.’  Does anyone think for a moment that if the population of the area from the Mediterranean to India were to exercise freedom and democracy, there would be support for America’s policies?  Such a vote was given to the Palestinian people, and America was horrified and humiliated when Hamas was democratically elected to power.  America’s stated policy of benevolence and democracy convinces those adhering to the narrative of American superiority, but it reeks of the hated hypocrisy and is effectively a policy of oppressing the area into puppet “democracies” brought about by, “shedding Muslim and Arab blood.”  They killed the warrior who was confronting this policy.  This is Haniya’s point.

-Hubris and Nemesis: “the basic weakness of our own condition…”

Long ago the physics of fate were understood by our cultural ancestors, the Greeks.  What is done in blind disregard (hubris) of the conditions of others and the universal laws, sets up a reaction (nemesis) that tends to undermine and ultimately destroy the perpetrator.  This is the stuff of Greek tragedy, as well as human suffering.

All of this perpetrated by the White Man over the last three centuries adds up to a hubris that is not only the cause of the hatred of the majority of the world, but to the very gods themselves, who do not suffer hubris of this sort without producing its nemesis.  OK, forget the gods.  Nemesis and hubris is a law of spiritual physics.   In the same inevitable way as a physi
cal law, hubris, which violates universal human values, produces the nemesis that is its downfall.

From where could a nemesis come?  It is too much to imagine that he or she would come out of the faceless numberless exploited masses, like the good shepherd David facing off against Goliath.  It is too much to ask in this world run by billionaires.  Nemesis could only be embodied from the ranks of those in the position of hubris.

The hubris created a nemesis vacuum.  Who filled it?

-Osama

Osama was a holy man.  This is described in Time Magazine (May 20, 2011) by Peter Bergen, who once interviewed bin Laden and has reported on him extensively. One of many sons of a Saudi billionaire, bin Laden eschewed his entitlement to become a rich playboy and zealously applied himself to the study of the Koran, while contemplating the imbalances of the world and the assaults of colonial mentality upon Islam.  As a teenager, when his friends were out playing soccer, Osama was praying seven times a day (two times more than mandated by Islamic custom) and fasting twice a week in imitation of the great prophet.  Later, he studied economics at university.

Bin Laden’s zealotry, according to Bergen, was driven not only by a desire to implement what he saw as God’s will in the face of grave assaults on Islamic peoples, but also a fear of divine punishment if he failed to do so.  So not defending Islam and its people from its most important enemy would be disobeying God, something he would never do.

Bergen makes the case that Osama was misdirected as a kind of obsessive zealot.  But his view does not seem to take into account the hatred generated by the hubris of the White Man and the view of the many whose well being has been sacrificed for the modern prosperity of the few.  When Che Guevara was asked what it takes to become a guerrilla, he said “uncompromising love,” that is, blind compassion for those who suffer from the actions and structural violence of others and the situations they impose.

However we may demonize Osama and assassinate his person and his character, however he may have been doing what his religion told him to do, Osama was the manifestation of nemesis. He had to be created out of the intrinsic imbalance of things.

Osama vs Bush

Peter Bergen, as the voice of the West, and many others, like to compare Osama to Hitler.  I like to compare him to George Bush.  As a student of psychology and human expression, I once made a serious study of the messages from bin Laden. It was difficult to find  translations that were not sifted through the American narrative and perspective. When I could actually watch the messages with subtitles or else just read them, unedited by a Western press determined to demonize them, I was astonished at what I discovered. They were the exact opposite of the atavistic ravings of Hitler, which as a long-time student of German literature and history, I also once studied.  

At the end of this article I have included the verbatim translation of a talk bin Laden gave in October, 2004, in which he explains the reasons for 911.  It illustrates Osama’s style of address to the American people, calmly presenting the reasons for the 911 assault, mostly articulating point by point the systemic and situational aggression described above.  There is no trace of vituperation or hatred.  The talk was actually an appeal to the intelligence and sense of justice of the American people, delivered with a calm composure and centeredness that shockingly contrasts with the shrill rhetoric of Bush, full of histrionic half-truths (‘they hate our freedom, they are allied with Saddam Hussein, who threatens our very existence with weapons of mass destruction’) and puffed up cowboy bravado (“Mission Accomplished!”)  The comparison was frankly depressing. I felt the deepest chagrin at observations I was reticent to share with anyone in my own country.

Osama was not deemed “legitimate,” because he did not speak for a sovereign nation or aggress on behalf of one. There is no strong nation out there that could challenge the hubris of the systemic and situational aggression of corporatocracy.  There is no voice loud enough to stand up for the silenced majority suffering under the power of this monolith.  Any nation rich enough to have an army and arsenal to challenge this power, could be so only because it benefits from the monolith.  (With the possible exception of oil rich Venezuela) what nation is going to risk the advantages of this participation?   What democratic national majority, prospering from it, would vote to challenge it?

As the “War on Terrorism” was being conceived, Peter Ustinov quipped with quintessential insight;  “War is the terrorism of the rich: terrorism is the war of the poor.”  Rich nations at the end of their diplomatic tether go to war.  Poor majorities at the end of their tether, having no diplomatic voice, no national identity nor organized military, go to terrorism.  There is a balance to it that only the just eye can see.

Osama’s Plan

Osama’s talk reveals not a madman on a rampage, but a sane man at the end of his tether.  Al Qaeda had launched dozens if not hundreds of incidents, including the first attack on the WTC tower – all of which were overlooked or down-played by the US.  These acts of terrorism were not insane attempts to attack innocents out of envy for their freedom.  Nor was it an attempt to destroy the enemy as one great national army seeks to defeat and destroy another. Osama was a flea attacking an elephant.  The attacks of 911 were acts of eloquent political theater designed to destabilize the monolith.

There were three goals, all of which succeeded:

-Rhetorical: 911 was a symbolic attack on symbolic targets: the WTC, symbol of corporatocracy; the Pentagon, symbol of the military might that holds it in place; and the White House, gracious mansion of its world figurehead.  America was appalled at pictures of people in the world celebrating this event.  To these celebrants, it was, like our dispatch of Osama, the justice of “an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”

-Psychological: The attacks were designed to destabilize the US and the West psychologically, which they did.  The invincible was shown vulnerable.  It was a national trauma, indeed a trauma of the Western world.

-Economic: 911 was intended to initiate a process that would ruin the US and bring down its whole system financially. Here too, in the long run, it has proved successful.  America’s macho over-reaction (Iraq had nothing to do with 911) has cost trillions, creating a grave threat to its economy.  With the domino effect of this instability, 911 has significantly contributed to its ultimate aim, to bring down the whole economic system. That aspect of its intent is still in process, and the world is still reeling.

Did Osama “murder 3000 innocent” people?  I do not think that death tolls figured in his intent. They were a mere detail, collateral damage of an act of global theater designed to provoke and destabilize the monolith.

Did America murder hundreds of thousands of innocent Middle Easterners?  I do not think the death toll of our adventures there figured in our intent.

Here is another multi-perspective view.  When I see the endlessly sentimental carryings on around The World Trade Center and its 3000 innocent victims, I wonder what sort of monument exists in Iraq and Afghanistan commemorating the bombing of countless buildings and infrastructure of the cities, which will take decades to rebuild, and the hundreds of thousands of innocents killed as a result of the high tech attacks of the US and the internal violence they unleashed.  Who is going to put up a shiny new Middle East as we are rebuilding an ever-greater WTC?  Really, wei
gh up the destruction of the WTC and the 3000 killed there against the destruction of Iraq and Afghanistan, as a consequence of 911, and the “collateral damage” of hundreds of thousands of innocent victims.  Where to place the rage of innocent peoples, who had nothing to do with 911, whose lives and well-being have been utterly destroyed?  How does this stack up to the victims of 911?  The comparison is ludicrous, unless of course the scales are absurdly weighed in favor of the narrative of American superiority and specialness.

What I am doing here is trying to put together the point of view of the “brother we call the enemy”. I don’t remember Martin Luther King advising people to take the side of the enemy, just to put oneself in his shoes and understand where he is coming from.  Likewise, this discussion is not taking sides or defending; it is observing things from the other point of view.  Martin Luther King’s point is that this perspective sees both sides and can thus find a higher, more transcendental viewpoint, which then looks for justice in the higher good.  This is the true American aspiration that Dr King was looking to inspire, the possibility of maturity.

-“If we are mature…”

Osama was apparently unarmed or unable to defend himself when the Navy Seals invaded his bedroom.  The fact is, that crack team could easily have delivered Osama alive if Obama had given that instruction.  Then, like all war criminals, he would have been brought to trial.  

As was the case with Saddam, he would have received every overt care and comfort, but been degraded in every covert way (Pictures in handcuffs looking demonically defiant, pathetic and disheveled, etc.)   Unlike Saddam, however, Osama had noble charisma, what many indigenous cultures refer to as “mana;” innate stature.  He was so far from being a bum, it would have been difficult to make him seem like one.  He had too much spiritual charisma.

-What might have happened?

If there had been a trial, before the eyes and ears of the world, then what? They would have had to let him have his say in this world forum.  Would he have ranted and raved as Hitler might have done, or Saddam?  No, he would have taken the same balanced rational tone he took in his address to the American people regarding 911 to be found at the end of this article.  In fact, in the absence of a fair trial, we might regard this as the draft of his testimony addressed not to the court, but to the people of the world.

Here is another thought experiment.  Imagine a world court, with Martin Luther King as the presiding judge.  In this testimony Osama would articulate a view that two thirds of the world takes for granted and one third of the world led by the corporatocracy would never accept, would in fact never even hear.  In effect, he would have, with his mana, put the world and the corporate hegemony on trial.  The underlying structure of hubris and nemesis in the world would have been exposed. And what would Judge King have done?

From this, we come to the overarching point made by Dr King.  We may have had the opportunity to “grow and profit from the opposition.”

BUT To have the case of two thirds of the world articulated by a calm centered voice would have simply been too much.  It would have further destabilized an alarmingly shaky world order before it would have changed it.

Obama

My secret hope is that Obama, who also has “mana,” is a wise man.  Unlike those who are disillusioned with him, I never expected him to be a magician or a charismatic dictator imposing a progressive agenda upon a recalcitrant American majority.  I have watched how, with his deep understanding of the Constitution, he is learning how the power structures actually function and how to bring about change, surely if slowly.  The dispatch of Osama was politically eloquent done with great Machiavellian élan.

However, there is something in the near identity of the names (oBama and oSama).  When I heard the news, my heart stopped because I mis-heard “Obama has been killed. ”  Since then, I notice how very often others as well as myself weirdly use one name when they mean the other.  C G Jung, the great twentieth century psychologist called such an eerie coincidence a “synchronicity.”  The coincidental factors do not cause each other, but they nevertheless require some interpretation.  Just as the psychologically astute should tend their dreams, said Jung, so should they learn how to intuit the particular significance of a synchronicity, its hidden truth.  Only one consonant differentiates Obama from Osama.  All that separates them is BS.  Hmmm.

Both men have a genetic basis in the non-white world, but were brought up in the world of white privilege. They are inherently capable of understanding opposing points of view.  From the highest perspective they are separated only by BS.
 
In fact, a real unthinkable shortcut to Martin Luther King’s vision would have been a soul dialogue between Osama and Obama, in which Osama set forth what he said to the American people in his talk.  What might the custodian of Western hubris have been able to discern from the custodian of nemesis?  These two guardians of hubris and nemesis in a respectful dialogue: this would transcend individual and national personality into King’s dream of a new world of balance and harmony.  This is also the vision of Gandhi and the Dalai Lama.

Somewhere Obama understands both the hubris and the nemesis, and in his own way, he will, if re-elected, slowly act to influence the world towards balance.   That is my faith.

The American forefathers created the constitution of America on a conviction of self- evident truth.  This refers to values that are universal, not merely cultural or national.  From the perspective of those self-evident truths, bringing down bin Laden brought the great world dialogue, the inevitable outcome of our own professed universal values, down to a level of cultural warfare.  But America is a democracy in which the majority rules, and this is clearly where America wants to be.

But let us now review King’s statement:

“Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and non-violence, when
it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to
know of his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed
see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we
may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are
called the opposition.”

-The decision to dispatch Osama was probably based in the realization that we could not have allowed this “enemy” voice to speak in a planetary forum: it would be too destabilizing.  If allowed to speak in his defense, Osama would likely have had the skill and the poise to place the world on trial.

For this reason, they could not have tried him.  They had to kill him.  Our President, with one rather elegant coup de grace, succeeded in fulfilling the will of his people.  But, as our President so often says, “let us be clear:” we failed in our opportunity for maturity, “to learn and grow and profit.”  We accomplished the death of our enemy, but we missed the opportunity proffered by our iconic hero: the opportunity to take a great step forward to the dream of our founding fathers and the enl
ightened principles they established in our constitution…to advance a world based on universal values.  In this we betrayed not only the principles of the rights of man, we also lost faith with the spiritual aspiration of the nation as a country of “true compassion and non-violence.”

So here is the heresy:  Osama was a warrior who observed the intrinsic imbalance of the world as expressed in the Middle East and dedicated himself to setting it right by whatever means were at his disposal.

We killed the man but not the nemesis. We lost our opportunity to question nemesis in order to rectify the fundamental imbalances that truly destabilize the world.  Osama is gone, but nemesis is not.  It only grows as the forces of hubris once again triumph.

However successful the Administration was at disposing of Osama, we did nothing to neutralize the nemesis by becoming aware of our hubris.  This was an unqualified failure.  In fact, the Middle East is but the scene of a mere fraction of the problem.  As the consuming hubris of the Western hegemony increases, so does its non-sustainable abuse of the earth.  The hubris is planetary and pathogenic. The real nemesis has gone into the earth itself, whose climatic chaos, now increasing with every season, is a form of terrorism in its own right, threatening the very species that has become its pathogen.  What is coming is war with an enraged earth.

BUT
We got ‘im!!!

Transcript of Osama bin Laden’s Speech
Aljazeera.net (online publication), Doha, Qatar, October 30, 2004

Praise be to God who created the creation for his worship and commanded them to be just and permitted the wronged one to retaliate against the oppressor in kind. To proceed:
Peace be upon he who follows the guidance: People of America this talk of mine is for you and concerns the ideal way to prevent another Manhattan, and deals with the war and its causes and results.
Before I begin, I say to you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life and that free men do not forfeit their security, contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom.
If so, then let him explain to us why we don’t strike for example – Sweden? And we know that freedom-haters don’t possess defiant spirits like those of the 19 – may God have mercy on them.
No, we fight because we are free men who don’t sleep under oppression. We want to restore freedom to our nation.  Just as you lay waste to our nation, so shall we lay waste to yours.
No one except a stupid thief endangers the security of others and then makes himself believe he will be secure. Whereas thinking people, when disaster strikes, make it their priority to look for its causes, in order to prevent it from happening again.
But I am amazed at you. Even though we are in the fourth year after the events of September 11th, Bush is still engaged in distortion, deception and hiding from you the real causes. And thus, the reasons are still there for a repeat of what occurred.
So I shall talk to you about the story behind those events and shall tell you truthfully about the moments in which the decision was taken, for you to consider.
I say to you, God knows that it had never occurred to us to strike the towers. But after it became unbearable to witness the oppression and tyranny of the American/Israeli coalition against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it came to my mind.
The events that affected my soul in a direct way started in 1982 when America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon, assisted by the American Sixth Fleet. This bombardment began and many were killed and injured and others were terrorised and displaced.
I couldn’t forget those moving scenes, blood and severed limbs, women and children sprawled everywhere. Houses destroyed along with their occupants and high rises demolished over their residents, rockets raining down on our home without mercy.
The situation was like a crocodile attacking a helpless child, powerless except for his screams. Does the crocodile understand a conversation that doesn’t include a weapon? And the whole world saw and heard, but it didn’t respond.
In those awful moments, many indescribable thoughts and feelings bubbled in my soul, but in the end they produced an intense rejection of tyranny, and gave birth to a strong resolve to punish the oppressors.
And as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children.
And that day, it was confirmed to me that oppression and the intentional killing of innocent women and children is a deliberate American policy. Destruction is freedom and democracy, while resistance is terrorism and intolerance.
This means the oppressing and embargoing to death of millions as Bush Sr did in Iraq in the greatest mass slaughter of children mankind has ever known, and it means the throwing of millions of pounds of bombs and explosives at millions of children – also in Iraq – as Bush Jr did, in order to remove an old agent and replace him with a new puppet to assist in the pilfering of Iraq’s oil and other outrages.
So with these images and their like as their background, the events of September 11th came as a response to those great wrongs.  Should a man be blamed for defending his sanctuary?
Is defending oneself and punishing the aggressor in kind, objectionable terrorism? If it is such, then it is unavoidable for us.
This is the message that I sought to communicate to you in word and deed, repeatedly, for years before September 11th.
And you can read this, if you wish, in my interview with Scott in Time Magazine in 1996, or with Peter Arnett on CNN in 1997, or my meeting with John Weiner in 1998.
You can observe it practically, if you wish, in Kenya and Tanzania and in Aden. And you can read it in my interview with Abdul Bari Atwan, as well as my interviews with Robert Fisk.  The latter is one of your compatriots and co-religionists, but I consider him to be neutral.  Are the pretenders of freedom at the White House and the channels controlled by them able to run an interview with him so that he may relay to the American people what he has understood from us to be the reasons for our fight against you?
If you avoid these reasons, you will have taken the correct path that will lead America to the security that it had before September 11th. This was the cause of the attack.
As for it’s results, they have been, by the grace of God, positive and enormous, and have, by all standards, exceeded all expectations. This is due to many factors, chief among them, that we have found it difficult to deal with the Bush administration in light of the resemblance it bears to the regimes in our countries, half of which are ruled by the military and the other half, which are ruled by the sons of kings and presidents.
Our experience with them is lengthy, and both types are characterised by pride, arrogance, greed and misappropriation of wealth. This resemblance began after the visits of Bush Sr. to the region.
At a time when some of our compatriots were dazzled by America and hoping that these visits would have an effect on our countries, all of a sudden Bush was impressed by those monarchies and military regimes, and became envious of their decades in power and ability to embezzle the public wealth of the nation without supervision or accounting.
So he took the ideas of dictatorship and suppression of freedoms to his son and they named it the Patriot Act, under the pretense of fighting terrorism. In addition, Bush sanctioned the installing of sons as state governors, and didn’t forget to import expertise in election fraud to Florida to be made use of in moments of difficulty.
All that we have mentioned has made it easy for us to provoke and bait this administration.  All that we have to do is to send
two mujahidin to the furthest point east to raise a piece of cloth on which is written al-Qaida, in order to make the generals race there to cause America to suffer human, economic, and political losses without achieving anything of note other than some profits for their private corporations.
This is in addition to our having experience in using guerrilla warfare and the war of attrition to fight tyrannical superpowers, as we, alongside the mujahidin, bled Russia for 10 years, until it went bankrupt and was forced to withdraw in defeat.
All Praise is due to God.
So we are continuing this policy in bleeding America to the point of bankruptcy.  God willing, and nothing is too great for God.
That being said, those who say that al-Qaida has won against the administration in the White House or that the administration has lost in this war have not been precise, because when one scrutinises the results, one cannot say that al-Qaida is the sole factor in achieving those spectacular gains.  Rather, the policy of the White House that requires opening war fronts to keep busy their various corporations – whether they be in the business of arms or oil or reconstruction – has helped al-Qaida to achieve these enormous results.
And so it has appeared to some analysts and diplomats that the White House and al-Qaida are playing as one team towards the economic goals of the United States, even if the intentions differ.
And it was to these sorts of notions and their like that the British diplomat and others were referring in their lectures at the Royal Institute of International Affairs, [when they pointed out that] for example, al-Qaida spent $500,000 on the event, while America, in the incident and its aftermath, lost – according to the lowest estimate – more than $500 billion.
Meaning that every dollar of al-Qaida defeated a million dollars by the permission of God, besides the loss of a huge number of jobs.  As for the size of the economic deficit, it has reached record astronomical numbers estimated to total more than a trillion dollars.
And even more dangerous and bitter for America is that the mujahidin recently forced Bush to resort to emergency funds to continue the fight in Afghanistan and Iraq, which is evidence of the success of the bleed-until-bankruptcy plan – with God’s permission.
It is true that this shows that al-Qaida has gained, but on the other hand, it shows that the Bush administration has also gained, something which will convince anyone who looks at the size of the contracts acquired by the shady Bush administration-linked mega-corporations, like Halliburton and its kind. All of this shows that the real loser is … you.
It is the American people and their economy.
And for the record, we agreed with the Commander-General Muhammad Ataa,  God have mercy on him, that all the operations should be carried out within twenty minutes, before Bush and his administration noticed.  It never occurred to us that the commander-in-chief of the American armed forces would abandon 50,000 of his citizens in the twin towers to face those great horrors alone when they most needed him.  But because it seemed to him that talking to the little girl about the goat and its butting was more important than occupying himself with the planes and their butting of the skyscrapers, we were given three times the period required to execute the operations – all praise is due to God.
It is no secret to you that the thinkers and perceptive ones in America warned Bush before the (Iraq) war and told him: “All that you want for securing America and removing the weapons of mass destruction — assuming they exist — is available to you.  The nations of the world are with you in the inspections, and it is in the interest of America to not be thrust into an unjustified war with an unknown outcome.” But the darkness of the black gold blurred his vision and insight, and he gave priority to private interests over the public interests of America.
So the war went ahead, the death toll rose, the American economy bled, and Bush became embroiled in the swamps of Iraq that threaten his future. He fits the saying “like the demented she-goat who used her hoof to dig up a knife from under the earth”.
So I say to you, over 15,000 of our people have been killed and tens of thousands injured, while more than a thousand of you have been killed and more than 10,000 injured. And Bush’s hands are stained with the blood of all those killed from both sides, all for the sake of oil and keeping the private companies in business.
Be aware that you are the nation who punishes the weak man when he kills  one of its citizens for money, while letting the powerful one get off when he causes the killing of more than 1000 of its sons for money.
And the same goes for your allies in Palestine. They terrorise the women and children, and kill and capture the men as they lie sleeping with their families on their mattresses.  Remember, for every action, there is a reaction.
Finally, it behooves you to reflect on the last wills and testaments of the thousands who left you on the 11th as they gestured frantically in despair. They are important testaments, which should be studied and researched.
Among the most important of what I read their gestures before the collapse: “How mistaken we were to have allowed the White House to implement its aggressive foreign policies against the weak without supervision.”  It is as if they were telling you, the people of America: “Hold to account those who have caused us to be killed, and fortunate is he who learns from others’ mistakes.”
And among that which I read in their gestures is a verse of poetry. “Injustice chases its people,  How unhealthy the bed of tyranny.”
As has been said: “An ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure.”
And know that: “It is better to return to truth than persist in error.”  The wise man doesn’t squander his security, wealth and children for the sake of the liar in the White House.
In conclusion, I tell you in truth, that your security is not in the hands of Kerry, nor Bush, nor al-Qaida. No.  Your security is in your own hands. And any state that doesn’t fool with our security has automatically guaranteed its own security.
And God is our Guardian and Helper, while you have no Guardian or Helper. All peace be upon he who follows the Guidance.

THE RAPE OF INNOCENCE: The Catholic Crisis

Summary
      The sex scandal within the Catholic Church has reached epic proportions.  There is much heated discussion of this crisis and how the problem of pedophilia should be handled on a political and disciplinary level, but the questions about its real cause are rarely approached.  The crisis is so grotesque and monumental that only the most basic questioning may lead to an understanding of its underlying causes.  These go back to the foundations of the Church’s attitude towards vitality and nature and the appropriate management of erotic energy.  The problem is based in the Semitic/Christian split of the body and mind.  The resulting war between spirit and flesh generates a rage that is deep and unconscious.  Only vengeance of such a shadowy nature can throw light upon the violent and contradictory rape of innocents. Yet this split is not really fundamental, as can be shown by looking outside of the Semitic/Christian world at other religious traditions, both ancient and extant, which cultivate the consciousness that is prior to any dualistic split and manage vital energy in more wholesome ways. This split between mind and nature is fundamental to an even greater crisis now before us: the ecological state of the earth fueled by Western culture.  The disposition of exploitation is at the root of the catastrophe that now threatens our very existence.  The earth too shows every sign of being in a rage.

Outline:
The Unfolding Scandal
Peeling the Onion
Questions
    Determining the source of the problem
    Blaming homosexuality
The Fundamental Issue
The True Victims
    Innocence is Vitality
    The War of Spirit and Flesh
The Big Lie and the Great Truth
    The Big Lie and Its Consequences
    The Great Truth and its Traditions
The Greater Tragedy
What is the Church to Do?
A New Direction
    What can you do?

THE RAPE OF INNOCENCE

“I loved our priest. So did my mother. We all believed that the priest and the bishop and the Pope himself were always right.  They were the force for good. It was the power of God.  Mother was delighted when the priest arrived to pick me up to join other boys on trips to the beach. I was too. He would grab me, tickling and wrestling like I did with my Dad.  At first it was fun, but then something changed.  He started grabbing me down there.  I would feel him rubbing against me from behind.  I got so scared.  Even though he was next to God for me, I knew this was so wrong.  I didn’t know who to turn to. I looked out the window.  I started praying, but there was no voice to comfort me.  This went on for several years.  Sometimes I secretly enjoyed what we did, but mostly I was confused and depressed, until I finally told my Dad.  He reported what happened, but there was no change.  After some time the priest left, but it was celebrated with cake and ice cream.  I was so confused and left with deep scars of secret shame.  Now that people know about it they are gasping for breath.  They don’t know where to put their faith.  What should I do when I pray?
                                                                                A Victim

The Unfolding Scandal
     One has to pity the poor pope, wearing the Emperor’s new clothes, his ornate crown and gowns and massive golden setting growing ever uglier as the grotesque magnitude of the scandal becomes evident.  Benedict’s aged rigid body raising his arms in blessing is an appropriate symbol of the pitiful inadequacy of this ancient mendacious institution in the face of the tidal wave that is sweeping over the Vatican.  A roiling series of national scandals has turned into an epic test for the universal church, threatening its very existence.

This institution was created to universally embody the divine protector of innocence, the one who famously said words that now carry an awful irony, “Suffer the little children to come unto me.”  This Church has fomented a secret army of sexual predators, under the protection of the Church itself, who find themselves unable to resist the compulsion to exploit the power of their position to force themselves upon innocents.  How are we to deal with this appalling absurdity?

It has been said that if the Church managed to survive the Inquisition, it can survive this.  But these times are different.  Right now, the modern world is wrapping its head around the Catholic Church in a major way. The growing evidence is so hideous and deformed, its true extent and breadth becoming daily more evident, that the Church is being driven to inevitable confrontation. The crisis will never be resolved until the real depth of the problem is identified, clarified and courageously addressed.  

Perhaps in the ancient way of great crisis, this presents a great opportunity. But what is the real problem?

Peeling the Onion

Questions abound.  

What kind of apologies and reparations are in order?
How to answer those who have placed their most sacred trust in the church?  
Will the church survive the legal suits?  
Is the fabulous wealth of the Vatican sufficient to pay out the billions in reparations due to its victims?  
Will the poor of the southern hemisphere continue to finance this great outlay in addition to paying for the ornamentation, or will the church have to start selling off its gold leaf?

What to do about the guilty priests?  
The Pope appears to be making progress as the church, its cover-up of the situation now revealed, is now willing to give up its protection, point to the priests, call them names appropriately associated with evil, reject them and hand them over to the law.  This is seen as a step forward.  Much is made of the extent to which this is done.

But how is the Vatican to deal with the cynical secrecy of the cover-up itself?  
Who knew about this all these many years and did not address it according to the laws of the land?  
Who participated in the cover-up and what responsibility and liability do they have with regard to the law?
We now know that Pope Benedict himself, who once headed up the modern vestige of the Inquisition responsible for dealing with this issue, grandly led the cover-up.  What is to be done with such a one who is willing to protect this mendacious institution by sacrificing the well being of those it is intended to serve?  
What kind of punishment is due those who have covered up this moral atrocity?
Can the absolute leader of the Imperium church publicly atone for his sins and yet preserve the theological magisterium of the papacy?

And perhaps it is no one’s fault, but rather s
ystemic to the very structure of the Church.

Much is made of this process of calling the church to account.  Sinead O’Connor, the singing conscience of the church, wants all those guilty of this cover-up to stand down and allow fresh faces, “those who really believe in God,” to take their place.  Would this get to the root of the problem?

Then there is the feeble attempt to address the sexual roots of the crisis.  Who are these rapacious priests?

They are people who cannot handle celibacy.  Celibacy is the problem.  Are we to understand then that if priests are allowed to marry, they will no longer have interest in innocent youth?

Of course, there is always homosexuality to blame, and there was always plenty of that.  Throughout history men who love men have characteristically taken refuge in the all male world of the clergy. One great leap forward, much vaunted recently by the church, is that homosexuals will no longer be allowed. One wonders how this will affect the already dwindling numbers of young men willing to enter the church.

But the connection of homosexual inclination and pederasty does not stand up to much scrutiny.  The abuse of girls shows that desire for sex with young faithful is largely unrelated to sexual orientation.  And what of the even more extensive, but less celebrated problem of priests who have sex with adults in their flock.  This too, in its own way, is a despoiling of innocence.

This display is pathetic.  These measures are no match for the magnitude of this problem.  If this is as deep as it goes, the Catholic Church is finished.  Such a collapse would be an existential trauma of such proportions for 1.2 billion Catholics and the very fabric of Western Culture, that it is understandable that the Pope should make every effort to avoid it at all costs.

The Fundamental Issue
      The elephant in the sanctuary of St Peters absurdly degrades “the pride of Christ,” the mystical entity called the Church.  The province of the religion is innocence.  Faith in the Church is the doorway to faith in the religion.  In this regard, betrayal of the innocent is too weak a concept: desecrated, defiled, abused come to mind, but “rape” is more accurate.  What kind of rage or vengeance is behind this?

What conceals the true roots of the problem is the cheesy moral assumption that the priests are evil and the innocents are good.  All of the so-called solutions operate within this assumption. This sets up a dichotomy that stops the analysis and obscures its true depths.

We began with the testimony of a “good” victim.  Now consider this testimony of an “evil” priest.


“Ever since I was young I was drawn to God and his church.  Early on I knew that I wanted to dedicate my life to God and set about preparing to enter the priesthood.  I did experience sexual feelings, attraction towards my contemporaries that increased in my adolescence.  But I was convinced that if I became a priest I would be able to overcome them.  In seminary I did everything I was told, but still the feelings persisted.  For years I prayed and confessed and resolved and did everything in my own power and the powers passed on to me in my training for the priesthood.  To tell the truth, none of it was very effective.  I confessed over and over, but the feelings persisted, and finally I gave into them and started masturbating.  I was getting sick. My guilt became greater and greater, which perversely only seemed to intensify my lust.  I began to feel more and more attracted to boys, especially 13 to 16, the same age I was when I began to have these feelings. I resisted and resisted, and finally lost confidence in my faith to be able to help me with this.  I had known of fellow clergy that had gone into treatment, but they either went back into the behavior, became increasingly depressed, and/or left the clergy.  I could not imagine leaving the church. What happened was a lonely spiral downward into ever increasing guilt and lust, which finally forced me into a kind of awful cynicism, a kind of impacted rage.  I established myself as the champion of the youths I felt attracted to, but I found myself overwhelmingly attracted to them.  At this point, I gave in and began to entice some of them into playing around with me.  This led to other things. Sometimes they enjoyed it a lot, but mostly they were afraid.  I too was afraid, but I had nowhere to turn.  When I was finally caught it was hell, but somehow, it was a relief from the personal hell I had been in before.  God forgive me.”
                                                                                  A Victim

If such testimony generates empathy, another perspective opens up.  Of what?
    
    The True Victims
     The innocents are but secondary victims.  The primary victims are the perpetrators themselves.  The truth is not that they are evil, but that they are equally victims.  They too are innocents who in their own way have been “raped”.

If the result of an experiment two thousand years old is the rape of the innocents, the experiment is a colossal failure.  It has exposed a wound so deep, an infection so virulent, that it may finally direct attention to its true malignant source.  This is so fundamental that the church in its present form, symbolized by this frail rigid Pope in his resplendent finery feebly raising his hand in blessing, cannot even approach.  At the same time the elephant in the sanctuary, primordial beast that it is, makes a mockery of all the ornate massiveness that surrounds it.
    
The rape of the innocents has finally expressed the true problem, for it is innocence itself that has been raped by the church.

In fact the Catholic Church is the tip of the iceberg.  Its power, moral authority and rigid hierarchy constitute a form of structural violence.  All the arrogance of this imperial posture sets it up for the comeuppance of this scandal.  The Imperium stands for St Michael who can overcome the dragon of the flesh. But the fact is that this much-vaunted triumph of spirit over flesh creates its opposite, flesh over spirit. The nemesis laughs in the face of the hubris of this authority.

The fact is that this fundamental problem exists throughout Christendom and raises its head in many churches.  Since protestant denominations are less centralized and more local, the abuse by their clergy cannot be figured into statistics the way the highly organized Catholic Church can be, once their records are exposed.  This is in fact a Christian problem, even deeper, a problem of Western Culture and is part of what has been called “the white man’s disease.”  The Catholic Church has just become its most exquisite symbol.

Innocence is Vitality
     Innocence is the purity of the given.  The given of life is vitality.  This givenness is its innocence.  Innocence is pure vital energy.&nbsp
; It is the energy of life, the divine mover of nature.  Innocence refers to the pure structure of being and of reality, which Socrates and his codifier Plato inspired us to question in order to come to know the One, the Good. The innocent vitality of a child is the force of nature itself.  The innocence of pure faith is the dearest form of that vitality.
    
The basic problem of the Christian West is its appropriation of vital energy and the understanding and management of the economy of that energy.  The way that the Christian West treats vitality imprints the way it treats the biosphere, nature itself.

St Paul put the case most concisely, “The spirit lusts after the flesh, and the flesh lusts after the spirit.”  Was this a declaration of war?

The War of Spirit and Flesh
     The problematic area is sexuality.  Here, “sexuality” refers not simply to sexual acts, desire, or permissiveness, but implies the whole integral cycle of indulgence and guilt suffered by anyone besides the fortunate few, who have grown up in cultures adhering to the religions of the Book, the descendants of Abraham.


Suppressing or repressing the vitality of sexual energy leads to pathology.  Starting with Freud, researchers and clinicians in psychotherapy have demonstrated and documented this fact for 150 years.  Mind making its negative judgments of the body renders the body and its energies into antagonistic “flesh” which has to be controlled by an adversarial spirit. This discontinuity generates destructive patterns of behavior. It foments a revulsion, which, set up against the primordial unity of things, becomes rage. It is this deep rage and its discontents with existence that fuel compulsive behavior.  This is the structural pattern of which the pederast priest is a victim, along with every other sexual addict.

In the Christian tradition, there is only one means of access to the union of spirit and vitality, one hope of returning to innocence.  That is marriage.  When marriage works and a true erotic energy exists between man and wife, the bliss of the union of body and spirit can take place.  It is for this reason that marriage has been raised to such a high level in Christianity and that romance, the possibility of such a union, has been raised to such obsessive importance in Western culture.  If you listen to the lyrics of pop culture, you get that “love is the only hope.” In no other culture in the world does romantic love carry the weight that it does in Western culture.  This is because it is the only way that the union of warring spirit and flesh can be achieved in the context of Christianity.

However, the proportion of people who can genuinely achieve this kind of union in monogamy is actually very small.  Couples who can sustain it are far fewer.  The ban on any other expression of sexual vitality in Christianity is a formula that does not fit the actual human condition.  It comes to a “just say no” policy towards sexual expression encapsulated in the late Middle Ages by the formulaic celibacy in the church.  This formula however works only in exceptional cases that have more to do with temperament than with discipline.  There are those who are blessed with a love and marriage that leads to an experience of the hallowed union of spirit and flesh.  There are rare individuals whose sexual economy is such that they can achieve and truly enjoy genuine celibacy.  But these are few.  Yet for the church, they are the only acceptable standard.

The policy of limiting sexual expression to monogamy or celibacy is simply unrealistic, a beautiful dream of purity that casts shadows proportionately ugly.  The nasty form of pederasty exposed under the foundations of the church is the result of eroticism that has been suppressed and repressed to a point of deep rage, equally repressed.

Stephen Fry, British comedian and actor, recently delivered a well-reasoned and deadly serious screed against the Church at “The 2010 Intelligence Debate” in which he fused the forced abstinence and campaigns against sex together with the rape of innocents.  Comparing these to obsessions with the other great human appetite, food, he pointed out the extreme and grotesque pathologies of anorexia and morbid obesity.  That, he said, in a nutshell, is the Catholic Church.

“Just say no” simply does not work.  Vital energy is simply too vital.
 
The Big Lie and the Great Truth
     The Big Lie is that spirit is in opposition to flesh and that correlatively the mind of man is in opposition to nature.  Therefore the only way to bring about any resolution is through control, which is monitored and enforced through religion, political authority and might.

The Great Truth is that prior to any opposition or duality of this kind, there is a primordial unity at the base of human consciousness that can be known and cultivated as the true potential for the excellence of life.  Most of the religions and institutions outside of the Western World have been based upon this Great Truth.

Culture based on the Big Lie creates an ideal that wars with its greater context, the whole.  Cultures based on the Great Truth cultivate the whole.  In Big Lie culture, the divine, who is good, wars against evil.  In cultures of the Great Truth, the war of good and evil is part of a greater whole, which itself is divine.

The Big Lie and its Consequences
     The West has a characteristic attitude towards vitality and nature and therefore eroticism, which is unique and fundamentally flawed.  The belief that this attitude simply reflects “the way it is,” that it represents a given, universal truth is accepted in the world purely as a function of Western cultural hegemony, but it is also fallacious.  The evidence of this has been amply demonstrated in the twentieth century by ever growing evidence from world history and comparative religions, by ever deepening access to the real theory and practice of each great spiritual tradition, and by the anthropological studies of lost civilizations and the indigenous cultures still alive on the planet.  This perspective shifts everything in the post modernist world onto another kind of footing.

The Big Lie goes way, way back, to the roots of Semitic culture and its turn away from vitality and eroticism.  Nature got it wrong and needs to be corrected. Things can only be put right by conquest and domination. This is a declaration of war. This psycho/cultural disposition was taken over entirely by Western Culture.

This disposition of mind finds no more eloquent statement than the belief in circumcision and its practice.  Abraham’s Covenant with God was sealed with this “sacrifice” of the “unclean” aspect of nature. This set off a war of the mind and spirit of man against the body and nature. Circumcision did not cause the war: it is its emblem. It is not merely that many men in the Semitic cultures have suffered this primordial physical trauma at the root of their being and the base of their memory, it is that this trauma and its practice are the stamp of a fundamental disposition: nature is fundamentally flawed and must therefore be conquered, dominated, and controlled.  This was and continues to be the symbol of a war between spirit and flesh, mind and nature that has characterized the cultures of all three religions descending from this tradition, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  Since Christianity is the basis of the Western psyche, it has become the prevailing view of the World.

Complementing the obligation of the male t
o slice off the end of his penis is the other great turn away from vitality and nature; the primal identification of women with sexuality and nature and their concomitant suppression, also a feature of Semitic derived cultures. Other cultures may place women in a subservient position, but in Semitically derived cultures this is done with a special virulence, a kind of vengeance. This put an end to the worshipful alignment with nature that characterized the Goddess cultures. By virtue of His righteousness the one monolithic God destroyed the nature loving goddess, reducing her to subservience and slavery.

Abraham declared a war that never could be won.  He set his God against nature – a formidable adversary, in fact, as it turns out, unconquerable in the end.  So great was this adversary that life itself became a militant, adversarial disposition towards, not just eroticism, or even nature, but towards all and everything except an ideal of spiritual perfection.  To this day, this mentality characterizes all the peoples of the Book, but the spiritual ideal is in grave dispute.  In fact, the greatest political threat to world peace is the warring between these three descendants of Abraham, inheritors of the covenant with God.

The Big Lie establishes a duality and opposition in a corruption that fundamentally sets spirit against flesh. The Western way of dealing with vitality is set in stone: the spirit is to dominate the flesh.  Conquest is the solution. There have been countless conquerors in the history of humanity, as revealed in the many ruins of great empires hidden in the sands and jungles of the planet, but the people of the Book conquer with a special vengeance, because they are fundamentally pitted against an unconquerable enemy.  

This is the climate of adversity in which vitality is constantly being suppressed and channeled into acceptable norms and standards.  For long periods in church history culminating in the Inquisition, this was actually a matter of life and death.  

The Lie sets up a fundamental conflict in human consciousness whose painful compression generates compensatory forms that we know as compulsive behavior.  This pressure results in sexual compulsion in all forms, because sexual energy is never given its proper place or scope.  It is to be cut, dominated and controlled, but neither vitality nor earth itself truly submits to this dominion and, over time, inevitably takes its revenge. Vitality rebels, seeks unwholesome and unacceptable channels.

St Paul’s War goes on and on.  The law lusts for control.  The flesh seeks revenge.  The guilt from this excess and compulsion multiplies upon itself, creating more pressure and more guilt.  A cycle gets generated which is constantly seeking compensation and escape.  Illicit sex happens.  The cycle becomes ever more vicious and, with uncontrollable contempt and internal rage, finally turns in upon innocence itself.  There is no more exquisite symbol of this cycle than the “victim” priests and the force behind their rape of innocents.  How else to explain this?

The climate of compulsive sexual desire and extreme puritanical reaction, the one always accompanying the other, is the reality in which westerners live, and by virtue of Western hegemony, the world.  It is deeply engraved as the norm of Western, now world culture. We take it as a given, but it is actually the Big Lie.

The Great Truth and its Traditions
     The Lie is so fundamental to our self-understanding that few Westerners can identify it, let alone imagine an alternative.  Yet there are many.  Our other great cultural ancestor, Greece, provided one.

In The Greek Way, Edith Hamilton’s eminent paean to classical culture, she quotes an ancient Greek definition of happiness:  “The exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording them scope.”  This prescription represents a view of life deeply contrary to the Semitic view.  Here, vital powers, all forms of vitality, are the great gift of Being.  One cannot imagine circumcision as a part of this culture.  The challenge was to afford all manifestations of vitality a scope, however it was naturally manifest, but to cultivate it along lines of excellence.  This, not conquest, was the basis of the Olympic games. The challenge of civilization would be how to bring all aspects of natural vitality, certainly including eroticism, into their highest form.  Areas of eroticism that have been thorny in Western Culture – including the love between men and the love of men and youths –were seen in Greek culture as vital impulses that were to be cultivated into their most wholesome form.  That is to say, these are manifestations of vitality in human nature and therefore naturally have a place of honor.  Men lovers are encouraged to bring the best and highest out of each other.  Older men may love youths in order to help them become greater men.  These are lines of excellence by which the primordial unity of spirit and vitality are accomplished and brought to completion in society.

In the imperial church, lovers of men, often taking refuge in the church where they could enjoy the exclusive company of men, were often sheltered by their sympathetic brethren, but when discovered, were persecuted and, outside the church, were often tortured and executed, and pederasts were forced into the dank cellars of the church, living the life of rats.  These are the creations of the universal church, which has refused vital power, allowing it no scope, and forcing it into the slimy depths where we discover it now.   This discovery, the rape of innocence built on the Big Lie, now, with all the force of cosmic justice, threatens to pull down the imperial edifice.

Greek culture was the alternative influence that the West did not take. It would seem that this insight died in the West with the Christian era.  However, challenges to the Big Lie periodically bubble to the surface of Western Civilization.  One such outbreak was the explosion of insight that generated the French Revolution, expressed in many revolutionary views of the time.  One critic and prophet of this wave was William Blake, the British poet and theologian.  In 1793, in the opening declaration of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake declaimed the Big Lie and proclaimed religious rebellion and erotic freedom.

“All Bibles or sacred codes have been the cause of the following Errors:
1.   That Man has two real existing principles viz: a body and a soul.
2.   That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, and that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.
3.   That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.
But the following Contraries to these are True:
1.   Man has no body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in these days.
2.   Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3.   Energy is Eternal Delight”

In the following prophetic screed Blake continues the argument with aphorisms pungent in defiance of conventional religion and morality, yet imbued with a biblical resonance:

    “Prisons are built with stones of Law.  Brothels with bricks of Religion…
    The pride of the Peacock is the glory of God.
    The lust of a goat is the bounty of God.
    The wrath of the lion is the wisdom of God.
    The nakedness of woman is the work of God.”

And then a prophecy:

“The ancient tradition that the world will be consumed in fire at the end
of six thousand years is true, as I have heard from Hell.  For the cherub with his flaming sword is hereby commanded to leave his guard at the tree of life, and when he does, the whole creation will be consumed and appear infinite and holy whereas it now appears finite and corrupt.  This will come to pass by an improvement of sensual enjoyment.  But first the notion that man has a body distinct from his soul is to be expunged.”

This impulse has simmered under the surface in the West finally exploding in the cultural revolution of the Sixties and the sexual revolution.  Now world culture presents many alternatives to the Big Lie.

The Great Truth is that before spirit and body, mind and earth, even good and evil, are separated and alienated from each other, there is a more primordial consciousness or spirit in which they are one. This “One” is the base of all consciousness, and may be apprehended by every human being whose path allows them to look deeply enough within. This spirit ground is the only true place to look for the divine.  The wise of the world have called it by many names, including “God.”

The Great Truth is not actually some ultimate fact.  Neither is there any great final sum of true things that constitutes this Great Truth.  It is rather a matter of the ever-evolving unfolding of the all and surrender to all that one is. More accurately, the Great Truth is, as Robert M. Pirsig observed in Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, the “Great Value.”  It is an ultimate state of realization, which is valuable above all else that can be said to be true, the highest achievement of the contemplative endeavor.

Because of the value of this pure ground that is apprehended through contemplation, the other great religious and contemplative traditions of the world have generated a different disposition towards nature and the body.  Ageless Taoism uses the imagery of nature in all its forms and manifestations to contemplate its source, the Tao. Excellence in culture must emulate the forms of this source.  Personal excellence is a life harmonious with this source. Hinduism and Buddhism, particularly in their tantric forms, use imagery such as the chakras, projected into the body and representing the different declensions of the pure ground of consciousness.  The body, in its multiple dimensions, thus becomes the temple, the primordial image of the divine. These are paths based upon the cultivation of primordial consciousness into its highest realization into the true nature of Being. They are forms of excellence affording full scope to all manifestations of vitality, because vitality is primordially divine.  (For further elaboration of these traditions, see “The Big Lie and the Great Truth” in The Heart of Reason.com.)

While the qualitative difference between spirit and body generates a universal tendency towards their separation, traditions based on the Great Truth do not tend to generate compulsive sexuality through repression and compensatory behavior. Those traditions held out a possibility of integral development that counters the universal tendency towards the Big Lie and transcends it.  Vital energy — instead of being randomly expended — is there ready to be used towards excellence, that is, in Platonic terms, toward the spiritual and luminous Good.  This is the experience of the vitality of the Light of primordial consciousness, producing a sense that one’s function as a living human being, with a body that can generate and circulate vital energy, is to direct this energy into the realization of pure Light.  In the context of the Great Truth one does with one’s mind and body exactly that for which they were created.  This is the excellence described in the Greek prescription, perhaps culminating in the provocations of Socrates and the classical excellence of Platonism and neo-Platonism.  This excellence generates a feeling of profound joy and peace unknown in the West, except perhaps to certain rebellious mystics and those in esoteric traditions grounded in neo-Platonism and other forgotten ancient traditions, deeply hidden from the Church, which have remained dedicated to the Great Truth.

In the West, the idea of living and cultivating the Great Truth is so threatening that it carries the expectation of a kind of cultural catastrophe.  The Imperium Church is, in a sense, a bulwark against the anarchy generated by the explosion of repressed vitality, a consequence of the Big Lie.  Its authority is understood to be necessary for society to maintain control. To relinquish all control on sexuality and vitality would be a license to licentiousness.  And this is just what happened in the Sexual Revolution.  

The unity of primordial consciousness includes all dualities and the dynamics between them.  As we have seen in the cycling of indulgence and guilt, a great pendulum swings between all opposites — license vs. control, spirit vs. nature, good vs. evil.  These oppositions themselves are therefore comprehended in the Great Truth.  The victim priest complains that the more he tried to control his sexual feelings, the more the lust accelerated, and the more acceleration, the greater became his attempt to control.  This is the pendulum as it works itself out psychologically. But the pendulum swings in all spheres of culture as well as psychology. The excesses of the Sexual Revolution were the extreme swing of the pendulum away from a hundred and fifty years of Victorian prudery: puritanical excess must swing into sexual excess.  There is no true winner in this war. Puritanical forces exemplified by religious conservatism in the US, to say nothing of the moral condemnation of Western culture by Semitic Al Qaeda and the Taliban, is the pendulum swinging in the opposite direction. This is why the fundamental tenet of Apollo was “Nothing in Excess” and of the Buddha, the Middle Way.  Excess always intensifies its opposite reaction. The middle way between mind and body, spirit and flesh, indeed all oppositions, points the way to a standard encompassing the given excellence of nature.  We never heard of it in the Christian Religion.

The Greater Tragedy
     The ideal of domination based on the Big Lie is fundamentally flawed.  It foments a disposition to conquest. It leads to the rape of the God-given innocence of the human spirit, but also that of nature, of mother earth and her creatures.  The sexual abuse of the children of the church is but the consummate and eloquent symbol of this.

The ideal of spirit dominating flesh in the battle within the soul generalizes into the intellect and will to dominate nature.  Therefore, just as one is to control and master ones sexuality, one must control and master the earth.  Western conquest silenced the harmony with nature, pitting man against earth.  This has worked to a certain degree, giving (Western) Man true dominion over nature and the native peoples of the world, to say nothing of winning great capital wealth and progress, but because it is based in the Big Lie, it is not sustainable. Now its intrinsic contradictions, writ large by our successes and excesses, are exploding in our face.  

Thousands of years after circumcision sealed the covenant by which nature is declared intrinsically flawed, the present result of this complex is not just a question of festering sexual discontents, it is a question of the entitlement by which Western progress has amplified and legitimized the human tendency to exploit nature.  Other cultures have certainly done this as well.  Some, like the Mayans, wiped themselves out by destroying their own lands.

But Abraham and his followers conquered with a vengeance as they generated a war against an unconquer
able enemy.  Fortified with the God of their own choosing, who in turn chose them, and in the name of God’s Son, the teacher of absolute love, they generated the entitlement, the arrogance that conquered the world in an unholy mixture of self-righteousness, greed and insanity.  The stories of Magellan in the Philippines, Cortes in Mexico, and Pissarro in Peru are revealing allegories of the entire exploratory and colonial enterprise. Their tragic outcomes are prophetic object lessons in the results of this unholy mixture. The Christian West succeeded in discovering the world (claiming it for their use) in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, conquering and colonizing it in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and setting upon the conquest of the Earth through technology in the twentieth century.  In the twenty first century we will see the outcome of this war with Earth–the result of a war fought for millennia.

In the conquest of the Earth by the West, under the banner of the cross, the white man destroyed and enslaved the indigenous voices that honored nature and appropriated their lands and cultures.  This characteristic disposition towards nature, amplified by science, greed, and the explosions of population, have brought the queen of nature, Planet Earth, to her knees.  If these destroyed cultures were correct and she is divine, that is, having any divine will of her own, she must treat the human race as a pathogen and, in her rage, shake us off into the abyss.  What does this mean?  Ask the people of New Orleans.  Ask the Chinese victims of massive mudslides.  In a newscast from Pakistan in 2010, a man standing in the devastating flood cried out: “This is the end of humanity!” In the name of a righteous God and His son, the teacher of love, we have controlled, dominated and exploited the earth in a way that disregarded her wisdom. Now the earth is fighting back. This is turning out to be the real war of the twenty-first century.

The rape of innocence and the rape of the earth have the same root and are structurally the result of the same erroneous entitlement based on the Big Lie.  

The Western refusal to acknowledge the way of nature set it against nature; now it has set the earth against us. It is all foretold in the wisdom of Greece and the notion of hubris: the arrogance and greed of man inevitably and tragically generates the nemesis that inevitably brings him down. This century will see a massive struggle with nature, whose furies have been released by the hubris of man dominating nature. The ecological traumas in the twenty-first century are the nemesis of the arrogance of Western man who thought he could dominate the force of life by cutting off the end of his penis and suppressing his women. The consequences of this attitude and disposition present the greatest challenges of the twenty-first century.

The remnants of the cultures overthrown, liquidated and enslaved by this domineering entitlement of “spirit over flesh,” exist in much of the Southern Hemisphere, and many from Western culture, seeing the trend, are turning to them and their disappearing spokespersons to interpret and find formulae for correcting the deep abuse of vitality.  The voices of these suppressed cultures are rising in a chorus around the planet.

The Big Lie is that spirit and body are fundamentally split and antagonistic. The Great Truth is that prior to this split there is one primordial consciousness and that bringing to awareness this level of consciousness through contemplation and cultivation is the only real possibility to attain truly transcendent and divine states of being. The great traditions of spiritual realization and transcendence are proof and evidence of this.  They do not result in the rape of innocence, but in the transcendent realization of true innocence into excellence. This transcendence of the divine is our only hope of guidance in this most perilous of all times.

What is the Church to Do?

    History comes down to certain key episodes.  The Church is facing one of those moments now.

To comprehend the Error of which the Infallible Pope is the quintessential symbol, one must have deep pity and compassion for Joseph Ratzinger, standing there giving his blessing in the resplendence of the St Peter’s.  The emperor is wearing his new clothes.  The world is aghast.

The psychology of compulsive sexuality and guilt is so deeply engrained in Western consciousness, that it is impossible to “erase,” even by those who, realizing the Great Truth, become dedicated to it.  Ingrained propensities take generations to neutralize.  We are all living in the heritage of the Lie.  It is the Titanic, which cannot turn on a dime, but must be steered slowly to change direction towards a new course.  In fact the sexual revolution and its sobering aftermath are a process that may be bringing about this change.

Given the betrayal of its utter moral bankruptcy, could the church not lead the way to make this turn?  What would it take?

In fact, the Catholic Church could address this deep issue.  The possibility and means are there.  It would take a leadership of insight, character, charisma and yes, vitality.  That vitality would require an existential and ontological honesty that could look beyond the ancient traditions of the church into the truth of Being.  Such a leadership would have to be so radical and youthful in spirit and integrity that it will likely never happen.

But here are some possible guidelines:

1. Radically honest assessment, scientific rather than moral, of the effectiveness of the Church policy towards vitality.
    
What is the truth about the pope/emperors new clothes?  What is the actual truth about his own sexuality and how he has come to deal with it?  Let the top twenty princes of the Church honestly assess how they have dealt with their vital/sexual energy. This is not an inquisition, a moral investigation, but a scientific one: honesty providing data, not judgment.  This is autopsis, the perfect witness observing the human spirit from within. Let each of them recount the actual history of his or her sexual development.  What worked and what did not?  Which aspects of the policy and the priestly training really helped them to deal with their sexuality and which only contribute to the suppression and repression that foments the rape of innocence.  
    
From this honest account, let the church come up with a policy around celibacy, marriage, and sexual expression that does not create a climate of guilt and place an unrealistic demand on the capacity for self-control.  Instead, let them create ways of dealing with these issues that reflect a cultivation of vital energy into excellence.

This focus on excellence would mean an education and encouragement of healthy sexual relationships outside of marriage.  It would mean same sex relationships that bring the best out of both parties.  And yes, it would mean intimate mentorships between older men and youths.  Excellence is the operative word.

2. Honest and informed evaluation of the way other religious traditions deal with vitality and sexual energy.

There are many valuable sources for studying these alternative ways.

As we have seen, there is much to be learned from the other great religious traditions, such as Taoism, Buddhism, and Hinduism, where they have not been invaded by Christian or Semitic ideals such as the Islamic and British domination of India, particularly the cultural remnants there of Victorian imperialism.  Since these high cultures with their religions and traditions, have a very different attitude towards eroticism and vitality, let them provide an anthropological laboratory of alternative cultivation of eroticism.  They are now readily available
and have served as such a laboratory for many who have been able to study them.

Let the church drop its silly entitlement as “the one true Religion” and study and work these other forms until they understand how they reach the divine, that is, the fundamental way of Being.  How do these forms produce, by means of objective practices, an excellence of harmony that reflects the primordial unity of consciousness?  (For further discussion on this matter see a study of these objective practices in “The Big Lie and The Great Truth” , in TheHeartofReason.com)
    
3. Recovering the Mystery of Christ

Forgiveness, Grace, the transcendence of salvation, the miracle of Christ are existential truths belonging to a genuine spiritual process.  The business and authority of the Church are mere exploitation of these truths to garner and maintain power.

Hidden in the esoteric aspect of exoteric Christianity is a way that restores the unity of spirit and body by finding the nature of God prior to any such divisions and cultivating an integral unity with it.  This is called gnosis. There are striking points of correspondence between ancient Christian Gnosticism and the Eastern traditions.  These are the clues to the true value of Christianity.

Gnosticism is another shadow of the Church. The early history of the Church was a struggle that pitted the Gnostics who valued the state of being embodied and symbolized by Christ against the authority of control, as it was taking form under the patriarchs of the Church. The more powerful of the two, the one based on conquest and domination, won out, becoming the Imperium.  But in the process it sacrificed the most authentic, universal, and enduring function of Christianity in the human soul, destroying all the Gnostic gospels and relegating this existential aspect to the obscurity of the Christian Mystery, where even today, those who are sufficiently gifted spiritually can discern it in the canon of the church.  

After the Church became the Imperium, its authority was amplified and sustained by its claim upon objective and moral truth.  Over the centuries the rise of the scientific method has eroded this authority over objective truth in a process that has been traumatic both for the church and for its scientists.  The second source of Imperium authority was Christian morality.  This too has eroded in the course of its history through its many exertions of power, featuring the Inquisition and colonialism, which were deeply corrupt morally.  The rape of innocents, however, has ended its moral authority.  What is left?

The early history of the church has been clarified by the rediscovery of the ancient scriptures, The Gnostic Gospels, which were suppressed and largely destroyed by the Imperium when it came into political power.  Rediscovering the mystery of Christ will mean recovering and restoring the existential wisdom (as opposed to any dogma) of the Gnostic Tradition. The Gospels hold many clues to the truth of the mystery of Christ, which in no way relies upon the dominion of the authoritative church. Honoring these traditions and their wisdom will mean a new kind of respect for the teaching of Jesus Christ. (For further discussion of this issue, see “The Gospel of Judas: Who Betrayed Christ?” in TheHeartofReason.com)

A New Direction
     The exposure of the rape of innocence in the church is an awesome spectacle, in a sense revealing the underlying history of the Church. I have tried to present in broad strokes the real issue behind these events.  The issue is so fundamental that it is reflected in the very character of Western Culture that has over the last 500 years increasingly dominated the world.  

The offense is so great as to bring down the Church.  It is so fundamental that it pervades every area of our life.  If we can see into its true depths, we can use it as an object lesson and a basis for bringing about real transformation.

The Church will probably never be able to rise to the challenges suggested in the three guidelines above and will simply become less and less important, except as an opiate of the people.  It will be part of a greater demise of organized religion, in favor of a more atomized spirituality.  This is in fact the further maturation of democracy in religion, what Walt Whitman described as “the religion of no religion.”  In this, we are each on our own.  However, each individual can follow the three guidelines for himself or with others who have the same mission: to roll back the Big Lie and rebuild life on the foundations of the Great Truth.  This will not mean the end of Christianity, but its rebirth.

To achieve this, we must turn with a new kind of innocence to face vitality in all its forms.  We must turn to the indigenous peoples whose cultures we destroyed to guide our relationship to the biosphere, within and without.  We must join hands with them to turn from dominating and exploiting the Earth, to divining her secrets and complementing them.   We must learn from the great spiritual traditions how to face our inner vitality and bring forth new forms of excellence to accord with it.   Let those who would save us become receptive to the innocence of the given and go forward.

We can only pray that it is not too late.

What was that Greek formula for happiness?
“The exercise of vital powers along lines of excellence in a life affording them scope.”

To go forward let us take heart from our ancient Greek ancestors and expand upon this formula.  Let us, in the conduct of our personal lives, and in the modification and creation of all the institutions and forms of our world civilization, afford the true scope of our given vitality, come to know, celebrate and be informed by its nature and laws, and create ever new ways to exercise these vital powers along lines of excellence.  That would be life in the Great Truth.

“The Gospel of Judas” Who Betrayed Christ?


The recent discovery of The Gospel of Judas seems to turn Christianity on its head.  It raises Judas to the status of the most gifted and heroic of Jesus’ disciples and even seems to be mocking ritual.  The document is authentic.  What does it tell us about the early history of Christianity, the true nature of Christ, and the truth of betrayal?

OUTLINE
Introduction
    The Gospel of Judas
    The contradictions
The Background
    The Crisis of Christian Faith
        The Collapse of the Christian Narrative
        Insufficiency of Historical Veracity
        The Gospel calls into question a basic Christian story
    Monotheism vs Monism

1. Who Betrayed Christ?
    The Question of Judas

2. The True Betrayal of Christ
    History
         Early Christian Gnosticism
         The weakness of Gnosticism
         The suppression of Gnosticism by Imperial orthodoxy
    Narrative of Patriarchal Christianity
    Narrative of Gnosticism

3. The Betrayal of the True Christ
    The Betrayal of the Ego
        Identification of the ego with the body
        Ignosis

The Clarification of the Contradictions

Conclusion
    Losses and Gains from The Gospel of Judas
    Radical Christianity
        Freedom and domination 

Caravaggio, The Betrayal of Christ

The Gospel of Judas: Who Betrayed Christ?

Judas Iscariot was the greatest of all disciples and the favored of Jesus.  His act of turning Jesus into the authorities was the most profound dedication to the divine truth of Christ.  Jesus was a comedian, so childlike he often appeared to serve his disciples as a child, but he also ridiculed their slavish observance of rites dedicated to the Jewish God.

If all of this were so, would Christianity be turned on its head?

Much has been made of the recent discovery in a Coptic cave of The Gospel of Judas. With much fanfare in 2006 National Geographic presented the story of its discovery, near destruction and authentication. Careful age analysis indicates that this document is a copy from the Third Century, but references to the Gospel in the works of the early Biblical codifier, Bishop Irenaeus of Lyons, indicate that it was already in existence in the Second Century.

Numerous scholars, including Rodolphe Kasser, Marvin Meyer, Gregor Wurst, and Bart Erdman, have studied the text at great length and commented upon it in the context of the complex understanding of Christ that arose in the several hundred years before Christianity was assimilated into the Roman Empire. (See Bart Erdman, The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot, Oxford, 2006, and Rodolphe Kasser, The Gospel of Judas, National Geographic, 2006) 

Preeminent among these is Elaine Pagels, the church historian who has dealt extensively with the ancient gnostic texts discovered earlier in Egypt.  In Reading Judas (Viking Penguin, 2007), anyone interested in the Gospel itself will find a superb translation by Karen L. King, as well as a concise and elegant commentary and interpretation by Pagels.  In this definitive work, Pagels describes the discovery of this Gospel as “astonishing” and shows how it reveals much about the truth of the history of the early church. Far from being merely bizarre and marginal as it may initially appear, the Gospel leads us right into the center of the heated controversy of the time as to what Christianity would become.  She concludes that the Gospel “…offers a window onto the complex world of the early Christian movement and shows us that what later historians depicted as an unbroken progression of a uniform faith was nothing of the kind. …. the traditional history of Christianity is written almost solely from the viewpoint of the side that won, which was remarkably successful in silencing or distorting other voices, destroying their writings and suppressing any who disagreed with them as dangerous and obstinate “heretics.”(Reading Judas, Introduction xviii)

Repeating or summarizing the work of these superb scholars is unnecessary, as anyone needing further clarification of any kind will find satisfaction in these academic works.  The purpose of this essay is to use the Gospel to shine a light on the living Christ within and the true nature of His betrayal.

    The Contradictions

The Gospel of Judas is upsetting because in many ways it stands the story of the fate of Jesus on its head.  Four contradictions are particularly outstanding.

    1. Judas, betrayer of Jesus, justification for all anti-Semitism, arch-villain of Christianity, appears here as Jesus’     special disciple and as the hero of the truth of Christ.
    2. Jesus sometimes appears in the Gospel as a child.
    3. Jesus is often laughing and even mocking derisively his disciples at certain points.
    4. The Gospel entirely omits the crucifixion or resurrection.
       
From these outrages, one might almost mistake it for one of those cheeky sensationalistic aberrations that appear in London Galleries—”Piss Christ” or “Virgin of the Feces” — that basically spit on Christianity.  However, its historical authenticity and the distinct tone of deep reverence in the document authenticate it as a profound Christian teaching.  Seen in the right light there are treasures to be found here that actually illuminate the truth of Christ in a way that no historical accuracy could ever do.

The Background

    The Crisis of Faith and the Collapse of the Christian Narrative

The appearance of a Gospel that so fundamentally questions the Biblical narrative seems to be one more blow to our very beleaguered Western religion.  Over the last centuries many Christian believers have been increasingly losing their faith.  This has happened in many subtle ways, having to do with the real ascendant faith that characterizes our culture: namely, the faith in the material world and the science that can know it, and the belief that historical veracity is the basis of all truth. 

I have heard many Christians say that if they discovered that the virgin birth did not happen or that Jesus was not in fact raised from the dead they would have no basis for faith. One might imagine that a revelation that Judas was in fact the great hero of the living Christ might prove to be the death knell of the entire belief system.

The tendency of Christians to base their faith on belief in the historical veracity of biblical events is inimical, to say the least, since there are no historically contemporary documents outside the Christian canon that confirm anything besides the existence of a rebellious cult in Palestine whose charismatic leader was put to death.  At the same time, the tendency of non-believers to dismiss Christianity on the basis of historical veracity is equally blind, based on the same fundamental error: that the essence of truth is factuality and the validity and value of the Christian story is that it is historically factual.

According to present biblical scholarship, the gospel accounts written u
nder the names of the disciples were composed thirty to one hundred years after the events they recount and were only attributed to the authors whose names they bear.  They are basically inspired hearsay. No one knows who really wrote them. Aside from this fact, the writers of the Gospels were never historians in our sense.  History and historical accuracy, pursuing factual veracity in the past, is a conception that grows out of our modern devotion to scientific fact, historically a very recent phenomenon.

Even more damaging is the increasing evidence that the miraculous themes of the story of Jesus Christ — the virgin birth, the crucifixion and resurrection — are found in the mythologies of many middle Eastern cultures predating the time of Jesus, so that the Christian belief system appears increasingly to be a fabrication of many current mystical themes woven together over the early centuries of the Christian era.

In a scientific world where material cause and effect reign and the scientific understanding of the universe and the earth increases exponentially every year, the stories of the Old and New Testaments upon which Christianity are based appear more and more ludicrous.  The church has been fighting this tendency since the Renaissance, because it threatens its power base of belief.  And it is still fighting.  That fight is about the “wrapping” of the Christian gift, a monumental distraction from any real understanding of the nature of that gift.

The mansion that houses man’s relationship to the divine source has many rooms.  Rooms such as scientific and historical veracity as the basis of faith are the least among them.  Those who worship at these minor temples have a faith that is very vulnerable indeed.

These issues are enormously exacerbated by the discovery of the gnostic gospels, and especially The Gospel of Judas.

While there have been cogent arguments in the past, particularly on the part of Blaise Pascal, that the very absurdity of the biblical stories forces the faithful to take the critical step of relinquishing slavish devotion to reasoning intelligence, history as the assemblage of facts about the past is an erroneous road to spiritual truth.  What happened around the life and death of Jesus has only become a historical concern since the modern concept of history came into being.  “Objective reporting” was never a concern for those who composed the gospels:  their concern was spiritual, and they used their interpretation of these events to frame a symbological truth that is far deeper and of infinitely more importance than the facts.  The modern preoccupation with historical truth is actually a distraction from the existential truth, which is the real import of scripture.  That is to say, even if magically we discovered a way to determine the facts of the past and we could assemble the entire factual life of Jesus and his disciples, we would be no nearer to the spirit, just more profoundly distracted by a shiny new intellectual toy.

    Monotheism vs Monism

To get to the bottom of the contradictions posed by The Gospel of Judas, we need to step back into the understanding of God and man that was the theological background of the time when Jesus lived.

The Old Testament tradition is resolutely theistic, specifically monotheistic.  There is one God and there is His creation and never the twain shall meet.  The very word “God” has this absolute separation built into it.  Mankind, having fallen from his primordial union with God’s creation must recognize this separation and strive to overcome it.  In Judaism this separation is to be breached by observing the Law and following the prescribed rituals and ceremonies throughout the year.  In Christianity the medium by which this can be achieved is Jesus Christ.

But Christ brought with him a truth that is truly revolutionary, because in essence it is not monotheistic but monistic, succinctly expressed by Jesus in the words “I and my father are one”. This means that the oneness is prior to any separation. Monism, being spectacularly counter intuitive, presents great difficulty in the West and has done so since the time of Jesus.

By contrast to a reality ruled over by God, monism sets forth one ultimate reality that is almighty in that it is the source of all understanding, beautiful as the origin of all wisdom, true as the source of compassion, and good as the fount of all morality. Because each of us is a manifestation of this one reality, we can come to realize it as our ultimate truth. Monism underlies the great religions of East Asia, Taoism, Brahmanism, and Buddhism, as well as many of the mystical traditions of the classical world, most prominently Platonism and neo-platonism.  This “God” is one with all of reality, and every human is fundamentally “made in the image” of this One. As in a hologram, each particle contains the whole of the hologram, each of us is a particle of the hologram of God, so that the fullness of the divine is within each of us: in fact this is what we are. Every human has the potential and the ultimate goal of overcoming the delusion of separation and achieving the state of realization.  The origin and final goal are the same, the One.  This is Monism.

To me all evidence points to the fact that Jesus was born into the proud monotheistic culture of Judaism, but realized (or very likely learned in the eighteen years missing from his biography) that He and the Father are One.  With this he returned to his own culture and tried to revise his monotheistic culture into monism.  This was absolutely revolutionary and created great controversy.  Jesus could overcome neither the hierarchical structure of monotheism in his home culture, nor the strict political hierarchy of the Roman Empire.  The political hierarchy of Rome, based on polytheism and the worship of authority in the person of the emperor, together with the hierarchy of Judaism and based in monotheism, finally brought Him down.

The struggle between oneness, the monistic experience, and the hierarchical view of monotheism continued to create great chaos in the early centuries of Christ.  Those who understood this monistic base of Jesus’ teaching became the Gnostics who saw that achieving gnosis is attaining the monistic realization, the living Christ that is one with God.  Those who could not lift themselves out of the monotheism of the Judaic tradition had the burden of transforming the monistic insight of Jesus into the “mystery” of Christ in a monotheistic hierarchy.  These became the paternalistic orthodox Christians who merged with the imperial hierarchy of Rome and became the authoritative Roman Catholic Church and its structure.   Jesus himself warned against this.  When two of his disciples came to him and asked how he would structure his followers, he said simply do not do as the gentiles (the Romans) do.

What the newly discovered gnostic gospels show is that there was considerable chaos in the early church between these factions, one that was finally ended by the authoritarians, because they were most adept at wielding and maintaining power.
A monotheistic hierarchy suited and indeed justified the authoritarian structure of the Catholic Church.  In order to bring order into the chaos of early Christianity these monotheistic elements first suppressed and then laid waste to the entire gnostic segment of Christianity.  Once they gained political power, they systematically destroyed its communities and all their writings, so that they have been wiped out of Christian consciousness for many centuries, leaving the impression that Christianity in its catholic form was seamlessly handed down through Christ by Peter who established its church.

Nevertheless monism and the gnosticism by which it is realized is a tendency that offers direct access to the living Christ.  It is the existential n
ature of Christ. Therefore this tendency has surfaced throughout Western History in the inspiration and works of great Christian mystics and reformers.  It is in fact hidden just beneath the surface of the New Testament canon and discernible there, but only those who approach the state of gnosis are capable of discerning it.

While the hierarchical deployment of power based on a monotheistic hierarchy succeeded in suppressing the Gnostics, it has proven in time to be the great weakness of the church.  With the corruption consequent upon such power as the church possessed in the Middle Ages, it was only a matter of time before a Luther would declare this degeneration to the world. With the development of Western thought since the time of Copernicus, the entire structure of monotheism and the authority it conferred upon the Church has slowly collapsed.  As the monotheistic view becomes increasingly untenable with every scientific advance, those who identify it with the truth of Christ cling ever more desperately to it, trying to justify the Bible and its mythology with creationism and other hardened reactionary views.  It could be said that in the greater justice of things, this is the ultimate result of Rome’s usurpation of the monistic realization of Christ.  The chickens have come home to roost.

As this moral and intellectual collapse has been reaching its nihilistic peak in the Twentieth Century, discoveries of the gnostic gospels, hidden away in the Fourth Century as the Catholic suppression proceeded, have given a far clearer view of the early history of the church, and how the other, monistic Christianity, was violently suppressed and wiped out by the monotheistic order.

It is the gnosis, or apprehension of the living Christ, so antithetical to domination and authority, so richly expressed in these documents, that are the true existential roots of Christianity and the only hope that the truth of Christ may prevail.

The struggle of hierarchical monotheism and the monism of Christ therefore works itself out on both a political and spiritual level.  This whole drama between the commitment to theism and the secret underlying the living Christ is laid bare by The Gospel of Judas.

1.  Who Betrayed Christ?

Judas kissing Christ

The Question of Judas

The issue of Judas has always been up for questioning in the mind of any critically thinking Christian.  Devotees of historical authenticity find troubling contradictions underlying the conventional account. In traditional Christianity, the central event is the suffering, crucifixion and resurrection of Christ.  This is the symbolic core of Pauline Christianity.  The assumption is that Jesus in his perfection was betrayed by Judas, a Jewish zealot (the meaning of his second name, Iscariot) who was disappointed that this messiah did not dispatch the Romans with a sword.  Once he betrayed Jesus for 30 pieces of silver, he promptly (and rightly) hung himself out of anguish and disgrace. 

But a careful reading of the New Testament gospel accounts indicate that Jesus knew the whole scenario was going to unfold and obviously could have prevented it in any way.  The implication is that he realized that it had to happen, that it was God’s will, in the sense that it would be the basis for this central imagery of crucifixion and resurrection through which his followers in succeeding ages would reach salvation.  In this sense, Jesus used, even exploited Judas to accomplish the destiny that forms the basis of this central Christian vehicle of salvation.  Who betrayed whom here? I remember having this insight as a child, but feeling if I wanted to be a good Christian I had better not go there or even allow such perceptions to come into my thoughts.

The fact is that the taking of Jesus and his crucifixion was such a traumatic and appalling event that early Christians were hard pressed to explain it in such a way as to preserve their faith.  Each Gospel deals with it in a slightly different way, showing that each splinter group of Christians had a characteristic way of explaining and justifying this calamity.  With the careful eye of a detective, Elaine Pagels examines this explanation in each gospel in the New Testament and in the gnostic gospels, throwing great light upon the consternation that existed about the crucifixion and how early Christians dealt with it.  She also shows how the interpretations that served the political and spiritual needs of a community horrendously persecuted and often facing terrible death led to the interpretations of the crucifixion that are found in the four Gospels of the New Testament.  This explanation is subtle, informed and brilliant, and I recommend that the reader who has any doubt about this interaction of history and scripture read her book. What matters here is that in the context of these variations the story related in The Gospel of Judas is not so deviant.

The Gospel of Judas goes way beyond my youthful perceptions of the contradictions in the story, challenging every aspect of this narrative.  In order to understand it spiritually, we must look at some more history and consider the gnostic form of Christianity that focused on the realization of the living Christ in the individual.  This Gnosticism lost out to the patriarchal Christianity that took on the structures of the Roman Empire, which looks to the ordering of society and civilization and forms the basis of the Christianity we know today as we recite the Nicene Creed.

2.  The True Betrayal of Christ

So long as Christians were a persecuted underground minority in the first centuries after Jesus, the religion thrived spiritually and grew in many ways.  Among these variations was the spirituality based upon achieving a certain level of self-realization and awareness, the state of monism in contrast to the doctrine of monotheism.  Gnosticism was not hierarchical imposition of belief that might be codified by a creed so much as a teaching of individual responsibility for ones own salvation with the help of proficients who understood the mysteries of the truth of Christ.

One of the main interpreters of The Gospel of Judas is Bart Erdman, who has explained the historical background and theological understanding of the Gnosticism that gave birth to the Gospel.  Through the examination of gospels and documents contemporary to The Gospel of Judas, he traces its belief system to Sethian Gnosticism, a type of monism that fell into disrepute as the orthodoxy of Christianity came into power.  Here are the outlines of this form of Gnosticism.

The world, and the humans that populate it are the product of a hierarchy of deities, headed by the Hebrew God, that were the creators of this world.  This anthropomorphic God and the other forces that surround it are the cause of this chimerical world of suffering and strife. This world is represented by the two sons of Adam and Eve, Cain and Abel, who symbolize good and evil.  By contrast, the one-monist reality is a transcendent consciousness that is the true home of the soul, prior to and beyond good and evil. Seth, third son of Adam and Eve, born after Cain and Abel, was the child who was a divine spark of the transcendental Absolute and who could come to know this truth.  Christ was the manifestation of Seth, available to all spiritual descendants of Seth, that is, those who have the divine spark and therefore the potential to become one with the fire of transcendent consciousness.

The state of transcendental consciousness is the true Kingdom of God.  Access to this monistic Kingdom is through realization, which is gnosis.  Gnosis, the highest transcendent state and the true God are one and the same.  But the world as we know it a
nd live it is the product of ignosis, the foundational ignorance.  The Sethians see the entire belief system of the Hebrew God as the basis and structure of this ignosis, and were therefore entirely anti-authoritarian.

Gnosis, capitalized, refers to the early Christian groups.  But gnosticism itself is universal. This monistic view of reality appeared in most religions throughout the world many centuries before Christ. The entire structure of gnostic reality including the monotheistic God just described is expressed with utter economy in the following words of Lao Tzu from the Tao Te Ching as he describes the Tao.

                                 It is hidden but always present.
                                 I don’t know who gave birth to it.
                                 It is older than God.

The same gnostic themes are fundamental to Brahmanism and Buddhism.  This world, presided over by one or many deities, is understood to be the product of ignosis (ajnana), non-awareness of this fundamental state of existence, “hidden but always present.”  Thus the “real” world, the created world, is described as maya, or magical delusion.  In each tradition hierarchies of gods and demons, generators of good and evil, bring about this world and manipulate it to their own ends.  For the early gnostics, these, in the end, are the real betrayers of Christ, who is the manifestation and revelation of the one monistic reality.

The Challenge of Gnosticism

The challenges to gnosticism are overwhelming in a world based upon hierarchical order, and certainly overwhelmed Jesus himself.  The primary challenge of gnosis is that monistic realization, obeying its own deep law, is radically individual and not conducive to collectivistic organization.  In the end the state of gnosis is achieved through individual practice and it is foundationally freeing.  The state itself is the authority. This ultimate freedom, based as it is in individual as opposed to collective experience, in no way lends itself to authoritative legislation and cultural organization, in many ways the bulwarks of an ordered society.  The revelations of gnosis intrinsically generate kindness and compassion, and while it is true that, as Jesus taught, kindness and compassion realized in the Kingdom are the spiritual basis of morality, ethics and civil order, there is no way of controlling who has this insight and who does not.  On the level of order and governance, the true values of Rome, this was a formula for anarchy.  The function of the State is to maintain order.  It is for this reason that when Christianity finally became the official religion of the Roman Empire, elements that could lead to such anarchy (and individual freedom) had to be eliminated.  The irony is that these anarchic elements are the very nature of Christ and were the reason that he was brought to trial and crucified in the first place.   Order betrays freedom.

In a way, the gnostic gospels functioned to counter the void created by this aspect of freedom.  They were in a sense guides to attaining the state of the Kingdom and revelations of the intrinsic moral order of Being that is revealed once this state of freedom is achieved.  Thus the core of The Gospel of Judas is the teaching of the vision of this ultimate order to the one disciple who Jesus sees as capable of receiving it, Judas. This it does in eschatological terms.  At stake is not only the survival of people beyond the grave, but the question of whether justice will prevail in spite of the play of power, violence, unjust suffering and evil that people suffer. In spite of the horrors of Christian persecution and its own internecine absurdities, justice does exist and the glorious life of true spirit will triumph over every evil. What will happen in the end times reveals the eternal order intrinsic to the present.

Patriarchal Christianity

Once the Emperor Constantine converted to Christianity, everything shifted. There is considerable conjecture as to whether this was a spiritual realization or political expediency based on the pragmatic realization that Christians were becoming a critical mass.  Gone were the days of persecution of the Christians, a situation which made life dangerous, but religion authentic.  Instead, Constantine made Christianity the primary political force of the Empire, volatile excess that was not tempered or clarified until the conception of the separation of church and state 1300 years later. Under the emperor, the central figure of the empire, the way of Christ shifted from a spiritual path based on personal conviction in the face of public persecution to a doctrine which had to take on the imperial role of establishing and maintaining a patriarchal order on the model of the Roman Empire and its legal structure.  As the Emperor was to Jove, so Christ was to God. And so the imperial hierarchy was transliterated into God, Christ, Pope, Cardinals, clergy and laity.

As Patriarchal Christianity conquered Christendom and became the prevailing view, all of the outer traces of Gnostic Christianity were hunted down and eliminated.  In the purge, all Gnostic gospels throughout the empire and their communities were destroyed. In great haste Gnostics hid or buried their gospels before the “armies of Christ” descended upon them to destroy all trace.  It is the discovery of some of these buried gospels during the last century that gives us a clue to the richness of the Gnostic practice and tradition in pre-Constantinian Christianity.

One of the reasons that there was so much antagonism towards Gnosticism is that it proceeded from a very different philosophical base than patriarchal Christianity, that which we have described by contrasting monism and monotheism.
But in fact, Gnosticism is a way of being spiritual that exists in the whole of humanity.  It is a fundamental spiritual tendency and not a doctrine.  The written traces of it in the Christian tradition were wiped out by the armies of Constantine, but the tendency simply cannot be wiped out.  It will be there as long as the human spirit is there, because it represents the highest possibility of human freedom.  Furthermore it is there as the base of all the great religions, in the higher forms of Hinduism represented by the Upanishads and Vedanta, but most of all, in Buddhism.  Without any question Buddha was a scientific gnostic, perhaps the greatest that ever lived.  In these religions, which are not constituted by overriding hierarchical structures, the gnostic realization is regarded as the highest spiritual achievement.  The tendency also exists in the Semitic religions but is always subsumed under the dominating monotheistic and patriarchal forms, which are accepted as the norms.  In Judaism, it exists in the Kabala.  In Islam it exists in the Sufi tradition. These forms of gnosticism have also been persecuted by the patriarchal elements of Judaism and Islam. In Christianity gnosticism is the underlying impulse of Christian mysticism that has surfaced throughout Christian history but has for the most part been suppressed by those who value order above all else.

Why is Gnosticism and gnosis suppressed?  Because it is not subject to hierarchical control it places the responsibility on the part of the individual to gain insight into the ultimate truth.  This truth has to be realized.  It cannot be imposed. It cannot be transferred from an authority or conferred through a hierarch
ical structure.  Gnostic realization eliminates the need for authority.  It cannot be legislated or controlled by external authority.  It is intrinsically anarchical, therefore dangerous to the civil order.  This, as we have seen, is why Jesus was crucified.  He had to be: he threatened the civil order.

However, where gnostic realization is authentic, it is the quintessence of goodness and godliness and even as a shadow tendency in the West, always acts as a corrective to the militant excesses of patriarchal Christianity. Some of its greatest exponents greatly influenced the history of Christianity: among them, St Francis and Martin Luther and the many authentic Christian mystics and reformers since Rome became the Roman Catholic Church.

The Point of view of Hierarchical Christianity

Let us consider the basic existential situation of the patriarchal Christian story.  The protagonist is you, the sinner.  Jesus is a paragon of goodness that you can never measure up to but must always strive towards.  He was betrayed by Judas, who represents the nadir of sin, rightly punished by the inner horror that results from the betrayal of love, which must on some level always lead to suicide. 

According to patriarchal Christianity, in order to be saved one must engage with the hierarchy in order to be absolved through the mystery of the crucifixion and resurrection. This deep dependence upon the authority of the church and its hierarchy had the necessary organizational advantage, like the Roman Empire, of controlling and maintaining order.  But in this way, the patriarchal Church stole the keys to the Kingdom. With these keys firmly in hand, the authority of the Church and its entitlement became a license for conquest and domination, as we have seen throughout the history of religious wars in the West and the colonization of the lesser peoples of the world by superior Christian based empires and rulers.

With the grievous degeneration and excesses of medieval Catholicism, this entitlement was discredited.  The protest against this usurpation and abuse of power, fuelled by a sense of injustice and inspired by the gnosis or its great visionaries, became the Protestant movement and resulted in the manifold forms of Christianity we know today.  Here, in a reaction back towards gnosticism, individual faith and engagement in the mystery of the resurrection became the basis of salvation.  The Bible and the codex of faith and morality therefore became the authority of the Church rather than the hierarchy of the Catholic Church.

Such a base of hierarchical domination does not exist in Gnosticism.

The Point of View of Gnosticism

The Gnostics (and their Asian counterparts) have a completely different point of view with a very different approach.  The basic reality is the transcendental ground of existence, which can be known through contemplation.  But attaining gnosis is so difficult that the Sethians accorded the possibility only to those who were gifted with “the divine spark” whom they saw as “the descendents of Seth”.  Brahmanism sees the possibility as a function of one’s karmic past, and Buddhists see it as one’s accumulated merit over lifetimes.

What is called into question is the nature of the individual and the world.  It is your individual ego, identified as it is with the individuality of your body and predisposed to see itself separated from the transcendental ground, that betrays true being.  Your ego separation and the world it projects is the betrayer of your true consciousness.
   
In Gnosticism Christ is this consciousness.  It is the fundamental base of what you are and what the world is.  This truth has no history or future, it can only be known as the present.  Once “apprehended” this present is always here/now, and thus eternal.  Most of all, it is knowable, but not through knowledge that resembles factual or scientific knowledge or belief in past events, but only through gnosis, which is basically the understanding arising from consciousness knowing itself.  This occurs through the skillful means of contemplation, a great feature of the pre-Christian mystery schools and of Gnosticism itself, but completely lost to mainstream Western thought.

Jesus Christ is the symbol of the state of pristine gnosis by which one experiences the blissful divinity of the universe, an existential state of being in the Kingdom.  It is real as opposed to illusory being.  It is a real state that has been experienced at the peak of all religions and described in a fundamentally identical way by all the mystics of the world who have realized it.  From the gnostic point of view this is the absolute and true meaning of Christ, of which Jesus is the perfect exemplar, the one who shows his followers how the state of the Kingdom is lived out in this real world.

The consciousness of every human being is basically structured in the same way.  With the perspective of all the great world religions now available to us, this has become abundantly clear.  The pattern of existential transcendence is what is universal and true, not the belief system of any particular religion.  Imposing belief systems always ultimately fails, because it betrays the universal truth.

True religions reveal this structure in manifold ways.  Theoretically, anyone can experience the state of the Kingdom, because it is the essential nature of human consciousness.  This is hateful to patriarchal Christianity, because salvation is a realization, having nothing to do with legislation that supports a worldly hierarchy and order, the ancient dream of the Roman Empire.

3. The Betrayal of the True Christ

The living Christ IS power.  When the gnosis has been realized there is no more need to exert power in the world.  One is certainly powerful, because one is standing in the very nature of power, but one does not need to HAVE power.  When gnosis has not been realized, in the condition we have called ignosis, existence is a vacuum of nothingness that has to be filled at all costs with some form or other of self-importance. This ignosis makes men desperate to have power. What stops up this vacuum is the ego. Out of this negative void of ignosis, the ego arises to control and dominate its world with all its tentacles.  Power corrupts: absolute power corrupts absolutely.  This is the betrayal of the true Christ.

The ego is the center of the world. It is the point of false identification, which “exists” in its past history and in its possible future.  This ego is who I was yesterday, am today and will be in the future. All wants and needs are directed towards itself.   As such, ego goes on fortifying the separation from the whole, or God.  Its physical locus is ones body, and the body is always the point of reference for this ego-centered reality.  The body is the vehicle of the ego, for Jesus, as for all of us.
         
The body is deeply contradictory.  On the one hand, life is about protecting and strengthening the body.  In the yoga tradition bringing the body to its highest perfection is the precondition for gnosis.  At the same time, death, often accompanied by great suffering and illness is the inevitable fate of the body.  The body is intrinsically a betrayer. Body “betrays” us in the sense that it is sure to fail us at some point, and at almost any time observable in the illness and death of those around us, will bring us down in terrible suffering.  Its crucifixion is inevitable. The ego, identified with the body, is the reference point for our separation from God.  The ego is inevitably the source of suffering.

This is represented in the central imagery of patriarchal Christianity. The crucifixion is the crucible of transformation
in which the body suffers the crucifixion of old age, sickness and death, and the Resurrection is the ultimate realization of the human spirit by which one comes to experience the immortal nature of essential being.  At this point, all the promises of salvation are realized.

In Gnosticism, it is the ego’s identification with the body that is the great betrayer of the true nature of the divine or transcendent self.  The Gnostic project is therefore to free the transcendent being into the Kingdom by overcoming the betrayal of the ego identification with the body.  It is this fundamental freeing of Christ from the body of Jesus that is accomplished by Judas.

St Judas

The Clarification of the Contradictions

Now let us use this expanded understanding of the Betrayal to reconsider the ways in which The Gospel of Judas contradicts the orthodox Christian view:

1. Judas is presented as Jesus’ special disciple and as the hero of Christianity.

All of the gospels are the accounts of disciples who are attracted to the truth and gather around the Master who has achieved it.  Each disciple represents some way of being with regard to this true state. In this gospel, Judas, the betrayer of Jesus, the justification for all anti-Semitism, the arch-villain of Christianity, is presented as Jesus’ special disciple and as the ultimate Christian hero.

Judas here represents the intelligence of one who can truly follow the Master and achieve the state.  He is presented as the only one of the disciples who is gifted with the capacity for true gnosis and is therefore the dearest disciple, the one entrusted with the sacred betrayal of the ego, by which the ultimate truth can be known. His “betrayal” is the symbolic act by which the truth of Christ is freed from the body of Jesus.  The deep fundamental truth of this is that the function of the ego is ultimately to eliminate itself and its identification with the body so that it can enter into the Kingdom.

While this cannot be reconciled with the orthodox history of Jesus, existentially it is the equivalent of the symbology of the crucifixion, death and resurrection.

2. Jesus appears in the Gospel as a child

The image of a child points to the hidden or unexpected presence of the divine.
A characteristic of the enlightened state of gnosis is simplicity and innocence, the attainment of the natural mind.  But this does not mean lack of experience, or lack of sophistication.  It is experience transformed into radically pure intelligence.  It is simplicity itself.  It is the pure innocence of gnosis. When one enters the Kingdom, one is blessed as a child is blessed. One is almost giddy.  The things of the world that others cling to are merely ornaments of bliss about which wisdom is neither serious nor grave, but playful. Buddhists call this “crazy wisdom,” and there are many legends and tales about this in the Buddhist literature.

As Jesus has entered his true Christ nature, and lives out of the natural mind, he is childlike.  In The Gospel of Judas he is portrayed as a child, thus emphasizing the radical quality of his innocence and the incomprehension of his disciples before it.
     
3. Jesus is often laughing and even derisively mocking the disciples and their observations of ritual.

In this Gospel, Jesus shows how the ego has overtaken all the disciples, indeed many in the church.  It all makes him laugh.  Whenever he laughs, a new teaching is forthcoming.

In The Gospel of Judas, Jesus laughs at piety around the sacred rituals of the tradition, ridicules them and makes fun of them. The other disciples are dismayed and angry with him for ridiculing their monotheistic observances.  Only Judas understands, which demonstrates how spiritually gifted he is.

In part this is another way of expressing the giddiness of the innocent bliss, which turns the gravity of what most humans experience as reality into a kind of joke.  But beyond this, Jesus has no respect for that which does not lead directly into gnosis, and this includes all religious observance and ritual that becomes a meaningless end in itself and a fortification of authoritarian hierarchy.  In the Gospel Jesus is making sport of the rituals surrounding Judaism and its worship of the anthropomorphic God.  One can be sure that, in this spirit, were he to appear today, he would also laugh at all the ritual surrounding orthodox Christianity.

There is another dimension to the derisive tone of the Gospel that is direct evidence of the intensity of anger towards other groups of Christians, among the Gnostics themselves, but particularly between the group which produced this gospel and the patriarchal elements who were clearly threatened by the gnostic tendency itself, the faction that eventually obliterated this sect and its gospel.  Pagels in particular discloses that this vituperation is clear evidence of the intense hatred between these strains of early Christianity, a conclusion further confirmed by the fact that all trace of Gnosticism was wiped out.

When Jesus laughs, a “reformation” is forthcoming. In a general sense, every Christian reformer has gone through this rejection of traditional ritual.  It is a kind of purification consequent upon the renewal of gnosis throughout history.  The Reformation ridiculed and destroyed the richness and rituals of Catholicism.  Quakers threw out the rituals of Protestantism.  When such ritual becomes an end in itself, like philosophizing, it simply no longer fits the essential goal of realizing the true Kingdom.

For gnostics, the goal of existence is the arrival into the state of understanding emitted from the ongoing experience of the luminous ground of Being and its many revelations.   One is led to a monistic understanding that there is one ground of Being and that the rest is fundamentally illusory.  From this perspective, rituals propitiating some exterior God are primitive, pathetic, and rather ridiculous. Jesus laughs at them.

In reflecting these values, Jesus says to his disciples, “Let the person of perfect knowledge stand before me.”  Only Judas is able to step forward, but he stands very humbly, not meeting the eyes of the Lord.  But then Jesus takes him aside and reveals the wonders that constitute gnosis, all in figures familiar to the Sethian Gnostics.  Then he points to a star in the firmament and indicates that this is Judas’ star.  Only Judas has the divine spark, which, followed, can lead back into the Kingdom.  Christ is that divine spark that needs to be set free from its ego identification with the body.  This is the true spiritual work, not mindless repetition of ritual and delusional belief.  Thus, as Judas is the only one capable of receiving the living Christ, Jesus reveals to him the eternal truths of gnosis. With this, He raises Judas into the living Christ so that Judas is able to betray the ego and finally release Jesus into the fullness of Christ.
           
4. The Gospel entirely omits the crucifixion or resurrection.

The crucifixion and resurrection are the Pauline experience of Christianity that forms the basis of patriarchal Christian symbology.  While Paul certainly had an experience of gnosis that overwhelmed him entirely, he experienced this through the imagery of the risen Christ.  Many Christians have experienced this throughout the centuries, but for the gnostics, this imagery was simply not necessary.

The scholars of early Christianity also show with great sophistication, empathy and skill how this doctrine of physical suffering and transcendence was used to comfort and encourage early Christians who were under constant threat of having to die horribly for defending
their faith.  It provided a point of identification, which made torture and death a way of identifying with Jesus Christ.

The identification of the ego with the body is what has to die so that true gnosis can occur.  This is expressed in the central imagery of crucifixion and resurrection, but this imagery is not necessary to gnosis.

These points contradict traditional Christianity, but they validate the truth of the living Christ.

Conclusion
   
Let us consider The Gospel of Judas in terms of its value to us.

What do we lose by taking the Gospel seriously?

•    A clear sense of the story of the passion of Christ
•    Jesus as a victim of the betrayal of Judas
•    Everyone’s favorite villain
•    An excuse for blaming the Jews for the death of Jesus
•    Assurance that we know the story of Jesus
•    The historical veracity of the Bible

What do we gain?
•    A deeper understanding of the situation of early Christianity
•    Clarification as to the suppressive nature of the Roman assimilation of Christianity in which it expunged all          that did not contribute to the order imposed by the new imperial hierarchy.
•    An appreciation for the aspect of the Christian revelation that established gnosis as the highest Christian     possibility
•    A deeper understanding of the role of the ego and its betrayal of Christ
•    The link of gnostic understanding that connects Christianity into the universal human reality and spirit

Radical Christianity

The Grand Inquisitor, written by Dostoevsky in the late Nineteenth Century, expresses the fundamental theme of this essay.  The Inquisitor, grand authority of the church, visits the living Christ who has returned to earth but has been imprisoned and condemned to die.  He recognizes Christ, but gives Him to understand that he must be eliminated in order to preserve the order established by the church.  This story represents a significant point of self-awareness in Western culture.

Order is necessary, but the love of power is the betrayer of Christ.

The central question we are dealing with here is freedom and domination.  They are an important theme of the history of the church as well as the existential nature of the human spirit.  They have both a political/ historical dimension as well as a psychological/ spiritual one.  Domination is the exercise of manipulation that is not the power of true spirit.  We have seen how the Roman Catholic Church thrived on its power over the mind of the West, but science and technology are also forms of domination.  So are the many manipulations of ones own ego in the state of ignosis.

Just as achieving the state of gnosis, the living Christ, and the experience of the one monistic reality is the freedom of ultimate oneness with God, so does true gnosis free one from the necessity of all manipulation and governance.  Gnosis frees up a love that is its own divine order and needs no ordering.  As the Gospel shows, few achieve true gnosis.  Without gnosis, in the state of ignosis, one needs to attain a high level of moral and ethical development through reason, a relatively rare accomplishment, or else one requires the guidance, discipline and domination of authority. Therefore the authority and discipline of external governance is necessary to maintain order.

From a historical perspective, the monism revealed in the Gnostic Gospels brings into relief the truth that the triumph of Patriarchal Christianity over Gnosticism was in the end a pyrrhic victory.  Over 1500 years the “dictatorship of the spirit” has proven itself a failed experiment.  The proof has been the excesses of the Catholic Church during the thousand years of its absolute rule.  This produced the Reformation that attempted to restore true spirit to organized religion.  But this fragmentation of authoritative domination and its own internecine absurdities created the political excesses of monarchies which attempted to rule on the authority of the spirit as “the divine right of Kings”, epitomized by the violent abominations in the reign of Henry the Eighth.  The dictatorship of the spirit was such a catastrophic failure that it was not clarified until the Eighteenth Century conception of the separation of church and state, that is, the separation of civil order from spiritual freedom.  This rise and fall of the dictatorship of the spirit is a cycle not yet complete, for the spiritual responsibility attendant upon democracy is still in the process of clarifying itself.  It is however on the horizon and is described by scholar thinkers such as Jeffrey Kripal in his analysis of the way the truth of religion is working itself out at the vibrant fringes of American culture in what he describes as “the religion of no religion”.  (See Jeffrey R Kripal, Esalen, the Religion of no Religion, Chicago University Press.) In this context of democratic freedom and the self responsibility of the spirit unmediated by religious authority external or internal, the living Christ might once again establish its truth in the human heart.

But where are Christians to go?

The state of gnosis is the living Christ.  Direct access to it as supported by Gnosticism was too anarchistic for Roman Catholicism, so it had to be eliminated.  However, it is still to be found in the Christian canon as it exists.  It is the hidden “mystery of Christ” which gleams like gold in the dirt if one has the eyes to see it. The purpose of radical Christianity is to gather the gold by clarifying that state as the supreme achievement of Christ, to show how faith leads to this state, and to purge the religion of the power base that has led to its “religulous” excesses.

The discoveries of the Gnostic Gospels over the last century have been unsettling to some, but in the end they may vindicate Christianity of the excesses that suppressed them in the first place.

Christians, like the adherents of the other Semitic religions, like to think that they are not just the best, but the only religion.  While this may have strengthened the faith of some over the centuries, it has been for the most part a justification for grievous excesses of power leading to horrible consequences all over the world with regard to factions within the religion and almost all indigenous peoples of the world.  The entitlement of specialness of a religion whose fundamental premise is compassionate love for all justified centuries of war within Christendom, constant war with Islam and persecution of Judaism, and then the carnage of colonialism, in particular enslavement of Africans and the obliteration of five hundred indigenous nations of the Western Hemisphere with no compunction.  Would anyone who “knows Christ” possibly be able to countenance any of this?  The contradictory nature of this history has significantly contributed to the demise of Christianity.  It is not Judas that was the great betrayer, but the entitlement of Christian authority.  This IS a historical fact.

When the excesses of an institution militate against it, the only way to save that institution is to go back to its roots. The gnostic gospels bring Christianity back into the human family.  They indicate and clarify the roots of spiritual truth not only in Christianity, but also in the fundamental unity of all humanity.
 
The root of Christianity is not any historical event, but the experience of “the living Christ”, which is the arrival of gnosis. All the great religions agree that this attainment of gnosis is the achievement of eternal
life, which transcends the permutations and suffering of physical existence. This attainment is the Kingdom of Heaven. It is an existential state of being which reveals the luminous truth.  Because it is a natural human tendency towards true maturity it can happen in any context and within the structure of any religion.

This understanding of Christ as the primordial realization of the true nature of consciousness meets patriarchal Christianity at its peak.  That is to say, the central Christian imagery of suffering, crucifixion and resurrection is another set of images that refer to the same gnostic reality. To commune with the Christ means that the body of every human is in the end crucified by the physical suffering of old age, sickness and death.  The body, the vehicle of life is also its betrayer. The ego that identifies with the body is the betrayer of the Christ nature. But the ground of human consciousness, which is what we truly are, is transcendent and eternal and can be experienced, known and dwelt within as the most fundamental condition of being.  This is gnosis. 

The Christian way of faith surrounding the central symbology of the death and resurrection, wisely followed, is also a path to gnosis.  Authentic revision of patriarchal Christianity always strengthens the true possibility within the tradition.  One takes on the imagery of Christ and Jesus, one studies the word of the patriarchal Bible, enters it deeply, essentially comes to live within it, and gradually gnosis happens.  The psychological position of faith provides a crucible in which gnosis may arrive.  Then the existence of God and the historical validity of the biblical events cease to be an issue.  True transcendental love happens upon understanding.

If one is truly interested in achieving the Kingdom therefore, one will come to see that the highest truth of Patriarchal Christianity is one and the same as Gnosticism.  They deeply inform each other, and each corrects the weakness and excesses of the other. All the conflicts around the truths of Christianity are of an entirely different and lower order of fearful mentality in which historicism, literalism, the confusion of beliefs with factuality create a morass of confusion. 

The truth of transcendence, transformation, and realization as a viable state is simple.  Wise men call it by many names.  Fools fight over those names, defending their own against others under the banner of piety.  If one reaches true silence, one can hear Jesus laughing.

The Big Lie and the Great Truth






 


The split between the spirit and the flesh is a subtle fallacy which has had fundamental and dire consequences in the development of Western Culture from the beginnings of Semitic culture. Bodily consciousness and spiritual awareness are essentially one, and this is the ontological base for realizing the oneness of God.


 


 


The Big Lie and the Great Truth



Contents


The Big Lie


1. Identity Unrooted


         The Semitic Tradition


2. Man vs Nature


         Western History


3. Sex vs Spirit


         Eroticism and Spiritual Potential


The Great Truth: All is One


         The Body as the Temple


         1.  The Innate Wisdom of Body Awareness as the Source of Gnosis


                  The Garden into the Kingdom


Chi: The Innate Wisdom of Body Awareness as the Source of Gnosis in East Asian Religious Practice


2.  The Method of Tantric Yoga


                  Working with the Chakras


3.   A Scenario of the Tantric Integration Process


                  The Importance of the Root Chakra


                  The Pattern of Breathing and Visualization


                  The Systematic Transformation of the Chakras into Gnosis


The Peace of the Great Truth        


 


 


 The Big Lie and The Great Truth


 


The Big Lie: Flesh vs Spirit (body vs mind)


 


The flesh lusts after the spirit and the spirit lusts after the flesh.


St Paul


 


What St Paul says in this famous quotation is at once the problem and the suggestion of a solution.


 


The problem is that in the Semitic tradition the spirit and the flesh have been so construed, seen as fundamentally separated, that each is incomplete without the other.  Falsely separated, they “lust” after each other.  This lie produces the fundamental angst of Western consciousness.


 


1.  Identity Unrooted


 


We understand that birth is an original trauma of separation from the Mother.  Healing this trauma at our source is the stuff of religion and makes pilgrims out of all humans.  Yet we come into a consciousness, which, though undifferentiated, is one.  Subsequent experience of the freedom of the mind and the limitations of the body, however, leads to a fundamental human tendency to differentiate them. 


 


This universal tendency takes on a special character in the West.  The original separation comes out of Semitic culture.  As the New Testament is based in the Old Testament, so Christian culture is based in Semitic culture.


 


We have learned from the feminists that the cultures descended from Semitic culture have been male dominated. Much is to be seen by starting with the earliest experience of the male infant in that culture.


 


Consciousness enters with conception, it grows as one in the mother.  At birth that consciousness is full unitary potential, one, body and mind undifferentiated.  Then in a moment of primal, original, and unimaginable pain something at the most essential core, something bodily, secret, intimate and close to the center of ones unitary being is severed.  A chorus of adult voices chant their approbation. This event, possibly the first memory, at once severs the (internal and intrinsic) primordial connection to nature, true power, and simultaneously seals the connection to the (external and extrinsic) authoritative God.  It sets the ground for an identity traumatically alienated from its roots and stressed in a lifetime of trying to regain union.



 


 


 


 


 


 


 





 


This is circumcision, a fundamental Semitic event happening at the beginning of life to each male child from the time of Abraham as a sign of his covenant with God, and followed ever since by all males in the traditions descended from the patriarch.


 


I am not saying that circumcision causes Western Culture, but that it reflects a certain archetypal quality of the Western psyche, which has always been male dominated.  This ritual act and the thinking behind it sets up Western culture in a characteristic way. There are of course many “gentile” Christians who are not circumcised, yet they still live in a culture grounded in the original Abrahamic identity uprooted in this way from its primordial nature. These are the men who have shaped Western Culture.


 


This ritual act grossly establishes something very fundamental: you were made wrong!  This raises all sorts of weird ambiguities that remain largely in the shadows. For instance, if God is perfect and good, why did He make me this way?  Why does His perfect work have to be mutilated in order that I might be put right?  His perfection thus made terribly wrong, must I then spend the rest of my life trying to attain union with Him?  Is it not this wound, passed from generation to generation, that establishes and continually confirms Original Sin in the first place? How can the child in his innocence deal with these questions, particularly in a culture of adults that never address them? Does this not imprint upon him forever what he will experience for the rest of his life as guilt and anxiety?


 


With this miasma of primal questions relegated to the shadows and never addressed, the covenant with the Semitic God is sealed.  But before the fundamental agreement is secured, the man-child is violently and irrevocably separated from what is given. 


 


Let us be clear, this covenant between man and God is based on a primordial, traumatic separation which is self-inflicted.






Christian flagellants




2. Man vs Nature


 


The human is a psycho-physical being.  Dividing the physical off from the psyche sets up a contradiction in reality.


 


What is actually happening here is that the mind has rejected the primal body with all of its awareness and connection to primordial being.  In the last hundred years this has been clarified as the nature of psychological pathology; first by Freud as the repression of the id, or the itness of the body/psyche, and then by Jung as the formation of the “shadow”. What is rejected forms itself into sabotage.  The rejected being turns negative and becomes the antagonist. The body and its energies, and by extension, nature itself, become the enemy of the spirit/mind.  The control of this enemy and its persecution becomes the main challenge of life and the function of Western religion.


 


Separating mind off from body violates the primordial unity and creates a state of chronic internal division and anxiety.  This is the Fall.


 


Western History


 


Judaism created this split, cemented in the consciousness of each new generation by circumcision, thus producing a fundamental angst and guilt. Then Jesus Christ appeared to show that only foundational love could heal this angst.  Some early Christians followed his inspiration and found a way to renew the primordial unity through gnosis. 


 


A description and a full discussion of gnosis is to be found in the long essay, The Heart of the Matter. In the present essay, we will consider gnosis as the understanding which is a return to the primordial unity of spirit and body.


 


Gnosis is returning understanding to the original given state of awareness, the Garden. When the primordial unity is rendered conscious through gnosis, it becomes the true Kingdom.  This is the nature of true power.  However, gnosis does not wield power, nor does it control.  It unifies and empowers: it does not divide and conquer.


 


When Christianity was brought under the hierarchical structure of Rome and became the Catholic Church, the deeper unifying truths realized through gnosis were co-opted into external authoritarian fact, which furthers the Semitic tradition of setting the spirit against the body, thus creating a fundamentally anxious existence riddled with guilt.  The Kingdom became exiled to the afterlife, and the anxiety fed into the resolve in this life to exert control over one’s body and behave oneself.  When Christianity became the State Religion, it got relegated to the Roman power structure which attempts to legislate and regulate behavior in a fundamentally anxious existence based on a self-generated and perpetuating split.  It is like the man who sets fire to houses and then provides a service for putting house fires out, which becomes a very lucrative business. 


 


Thus in the Hebraic and Christian traditions, the split of flesh and spirit became foundational to the development of the Western concept of human nature in which mind and spirit are at war with nature, derisively labeled “flesh”.  This is a usurpation of Christ by the anti-Christ of power lust. 


 


In this war of spirit and flesh, domination becomes the central theme.  The spirit MUST dominate the flesh or else all is lost. Among the myriad reasons that Western Culture has come to dominate the world, this is perhaps the metareason.  Since men identify women with fleshly lust, they must be dominated and held in place.  When this was added to Greed, the formula became deadly.  Since the indigenous cultures of the world have not been indoctrinated with the Christian truth of spirit over flesh, they must be destroyed, enslaved or at the very least clothed in modesty. By the way, while we are imposing upon them our Christian truth, the resources of their lands can make us very rich.  Since Nature is the source of flesh, it too must be controlled and enslaved. Science can dominate nature, and technology can exploit all this planetary resource.


 


Where has all of this led us?


 


The most powerful impulse in Western religious history to reconstrue this narrative of spirit vs flesh and to reground the Kingdom in the Garden, was led by St Francis, who sought to heal the breach by reestablishing a simple, holy relationship to nature, which he believed to be the truth of God.  Though he came to be revered with great sentimentality, he did not succeed in his dream of “rebuilding the church”. In fact the church dealt with his simple tendency to reform the relationship to nature with characteristic cunning: it assimilated the Franciscan Order into itself and built grand temples adorned in gold to honor Francis.


 


With this holy project thus incorporated into the power of the Church, the way was clear for the domination of the world, starting with the invasion of the Southern Hemisphere by sword and cross.


 


The Enlightenment furthered the project to lift Western man out of the experience of nature, by promoting the practice of observing nature and manipulating it, creating science and technology which dreamed of creating the Kingdom on Earth.



Yet it did not satisfy the human heart. In the Romantic period great sentiment to return to nature took hold. Romantics longed to reunite with heart and soul and the givens of nature. One star of British Romanticism, poet and theologian William Blake, succinctly diagnosed the Big Lie and identified the basis of the Great Truth.   In 1793 in the opening declaration of The Marriage of Heaven and Hell Blake stated this thesis in concise terms.
 
“All Bibles or sacred codes have been the cause of the following Errors:
1.   That Man has two real existing principles viz: a body and a soul.
2.   That Energy, call’d Evil, is alone from the Body, and that Reason, call’d Good, is alone from the Soul.
3.   That God will torment Man in Eternity for following his Energies.
But the following Contraries to these are True:
1.   Man has no body distinct from his Soul for that call’d Body is a portion of Soul discerned by the five Senses, the chief inlets of Soul in these days.
2.   Energy is the only life and is from the Body and Reason is the bound or outward circumference of Energy.
3.   Energy is Eternal Delight”


In the late nineteenth century the forces of nature came to be seen as a kind of godless force, the Will of nature and instinct.  Darwin demonstrated this in external nature, and Freud demonstrated it in internal nature.  This Will, raised to a kind of religion by Nietzsche, was glorified in two traumatic world wars that profoundly exhausted all efforts to realize the enlightenment dream of applied science as the savior of civilization and resulted in the annihilation of all essential value. The victors led the world into unparalleled development, which began to overwhelm nature on a planetary scale.


 


The longing for an authentic relationship to nature exploded into the sixties, which ushered in a dream of realignment with nature, through sexuality, through the equality of all humans before nature, in the growing ecological movements, and through a diaspora of Western youth into the spirituality of Asia and indigenous cultures still integrated by their sacred relationship to nature.


 


As for the Enlightenment dream of dominating nature through science and technology, it has turned into a nightmare.  Western man, fueled by his antagonism against nature, and in marked contrast to most other traditions which honored nature, set out upon a conquest and exploitation of the earth that has resulted in a destruction of the environment that now threatens the very existence of the human species.


 


3. Sex vs Spirit


 


One of many consequences of this complex, producing anxiety on the most intimate level, is the mishandling of vital or sexual energy in the Christian tradition.  The stance of the church towards sexual expression outside of marriage is “Just say no”. Like its modern cousin in drug policy, this strategy exerts control but doesn’t work. It never has.  The priest and the prostitute are in business together.  The priest creates the guilt, which foments temptation and hunger, which the prostitute satisfies, which creates more guilt, which the priest then forgives with the admonition to not sin again….



The one situation in which the breach of body and spirit may be authentically healed is the marriage bed, in the case where the chemistry is right.  Here the ecstasy of sexuality may ascend through the heart of love into the bliss of sacred union.  This experience of the primordial union is regarded as a great blessing in the Semitic tradition and has caused romantic love to be raised in the West to the status of true fulfillment, up there with salvation.  As the culture has become more and more secularized, romantic love has been raised to a universal cult, now the obsession of pop culture the world over.  While the split of body and spirit remains deep in western culture, every loud speaker in the world proclaims its only antidote in rhythmic and lyrical paeans to romantic love, celebrated obsessively as the only true value in life.  However, this is a blessing vouchsafed to a few.  Fewer still are those married who find their way to sustain this kind of union for a lifetime of sexual/spiritual satisfaction on the part of both partners.  Very few indeed.  And the others?  The other 95%?  Well, just say no.


 


As the sexual scandals of the church become more and more appalling, it becomes increasingly clear that the “just say no” policy of the church towards sexual energy, is demonically dysfunctional, indeed malignant.  In words the Pope used to describe homosexuality, this handling of vital energy is “intrinsically disordered”.


 


The Western attitude towards sex culminated in the repressiveness of the Victorian period, which, as Freud and Jung showed, sets man against himself, thus creating a deep pathology.  Sexual repression continued however up until the early Sixties, when the suppression exploded into the sexual revolution with its own attendant obsessions and painful excesses.


 


Eroticism and Spiritual Potential


 


In fact, hidden in the Christian story has been an underlying theme that the height and genuineness of spiritual experience was inversely related to the capacity for depth of erotic experience.  Original Christians, those true to themselves rather than to the traditions, often understand this.  Some of the greatest Christians were very experienced in sex, reputedly Mary Magdalene, who was the first to realize the risen Christ, and Saint Augustine, who was the first to frame Christianity in the context of the great Platonic tradition.  Christians like to believe that when these spiritual giants became Christians they gave it all up.  However they may have reformed and repudiated it subsequently, their prior sexual experience and understanding was still part of their total experience and make up.  Another perspective would be that the depth of their sexuality was the basis for the originality and heights of their spiritual insight.  This alternative possibility is now corroborated by an entirely different form of information, which comes from a growing comprehension of the great spiritual and religious traditions outside of the West.


 


Gnosis does not support a stand against the body, but reaches back into the intelligence of consciousness that is prior to a split between body and spirit.  This it does by realigning primal bodily awareness with mind.  This union is the basis of true spirit, which alone is capable of receiving the fullness of gnosis.



 


 


 


 





 Crucifixion sketch, Michelangelo

 



 The Great Truth: All is One







 


         Flesh lusts after spirit and spirit lusts after flesh because they have been traumatically separated and falsely identified and, as such, underneath, they yearn for each other. This produces a fundamental anxiety in which lust is a form of desperation.  On a deeper level, they desire each other because they belong together. Most primordially, however, they are not separate, but one.  That is to say bodily consciousness and spiritual awareness are essentially of the same origin and are the ontological base for the oneness of God.  This is the Garden the realization of which is the Kingdom.




 




Vitruvian Man, Leonardo da Vinci

 


 


The Body as the Temple


 


The fundamental human tendency to separate mind and body has been dealt with in different ways by the great religions of Asia.


The body is the primal fact of existence.  It is the given.  Everything else that the mind construes — stories, myths, images — are constructs in a world which very possibly is just collectively imagined.  The body however is different.  It is the concrete given of God.  Therefore the body, not the stories fabricated for human belief, is the primordial access to God.  It is that within which consciousness may authentically become aware of its own divine nature.  This is the basic insight of Yoga.  It sharply divides West from East.


 


Yoga comes from the Sanskrit root, yuk, which means “yoking or uniting.”  The most sophisticated of these unifying traditions are the yoga practices from the Sanskrit tradition, Taoism, the contemplative tradition growing out of Chen Buddhism, and the Tantric schools of the Hindu and Buddhist traditions, which cultivate the root awareness of the body and use it to inform and cultivate the intelligence, thus “uniting mind and body” creating true spirit, the source of gnosis.









 


 


Asia has had its great dominators, but they did not have the same fierce complex of Spirit vs Flesh underlying and fueling their need to dominate.  That is perhaps why they have not, up to this time, overtaken the world as did Western culture.


 


The practices of these great Asian traditions are methods for returning the mind to its primordial or natural ground, the Garden.  These conceptions are absolutely alien to the Semitic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam.  For these religions, the Garden was lost with the Fall.


 


1.The Innate Wisdom of Body Awareness as the Source of Gnosis


 


The great truth of the Garden as the base for the Kingdom, the primordial oneness of being, is alien to the Western mind.  Therefore this discussion has two purposes:


- To show that the alienation of mind and body is not intrinsic to the human situation nor absolute as it is regarded in the West, but belongs to the Semitic/Christian tradition.


- To show how the practices of the great Eastern traditions systematically generate gnosis by bringing the body and the mind together, as it were, uniting the branches of mind with its roots in body awareness to realize the trunk of authentic human being.  This is the tree of true knowledge.


 


To truly reveal how this split is overcome in the Asian contemplative tradition is to take a Western reader further and further afield from recognizable territory. For those unfamiliar with Asian religions and practice, this discussion will become more and more alien.


 


In the end the unification of mind and body is not an intellectual proposition.  It is, like gnosis, a state of being. Therefore the following goes over the same process of unification in a progressively detailed manner, each time going into a deeper analysis. 


 


- First we will go over the general principle of generating gnosis through chi or bodily awareness.


- Second, there is a more articulated description of how this union is brought about in different contemplative practices.


- Third, there is a completely articulated description of how the Kingdom is achieved through the Tantric method of contemplating the chakras.


 


In order to get a real understanding of the Great Truth, stay with the first description, understand it better, go through the second, get as full an understanding as possible on an intellectual level, use the third, articulated discussion, to understand how gnosis is generated and what it is.


 


The Garden into the Kingdom


 


At a very fundamental level our consciousness has never left the Garden. It is this that gives us such longing, such pleasure, and the peace that we experience in nature.  We all come into the Garden, get separated by the world, spend our lives as pilgrims on a path, which as gnosis grows, becomes clearly oriented toward reunion that ends in the Kingdom.


 


Taoism may be the most ancient of the great Asian religions, but it is certainly most fundamental in the sense that nature, the external Garden, and the body, the internal Garden, are both the central objects and metaphors of contemplation by which intelligence is shaped into gnosis, understood in Taoism as knowledge of the basic “way” of being, the Tao.  This characterizes the archetypal approach to religion in Asia.



 


 


 


 


 


 



Taoist landscape

 


Chi: The Innate Wisdom of Body Awareness as the Source of Gnosis


        


These great Asian traditions are generally based in the experience and contemplation of the fundamental body-based energy of life or being, known as CHI.  Chi is the basic awareness that is both body and mind, fundamental life consciousness. This source is symbolized, figured, and contemplated as the body center, four finger widths below the level of the navel, known in the Zen tradition as hara, in the Chinese tradition as d’an tien, and in the Hindu tradition as the nabi chakra


 


From the outset it is essential to clarify the distinction between conceptual/ linguistic knowing based on empirical information and chi awareness. Whatever constructs the mind invents to explain its existence is derivative. Derivative means names and forms, or concepts and language formed out of experience. The body is the given of human existence. It is also its source.  Its form is the primordial metaphor of consciousness, providing an imagery that is more original to the natural mind than any conceptions, histories, or mythologies can ever be.  Furthermore, however, the body is itself conscious.  This consciousness is chi.  Chi is not concepts, ideas or empirical information about the objective body, such as we find in Western science, but the body’s awareness of itself.  Its “cultivation” in East Asian religions is in fact uncovering a primal awareness that is chronically covered over by our lives construed in names and forms, or concepts and language. This dislocation of concept/form from actual bodily consciousness is a separation of body and spirit that is universal.  But it is compounded in the particular way that we have discussed in Semitic monotheism. This primordially unitary bodily awareness is the root of the natural mind.  These roots are the direct source of gnosis.


 


Cultivating chi and learning how to contemplate it means that one is engaging a knowing that is directly related to the root of being.  This engagement opens up the awareness and ultimately the gnosis that is prior to the split of “body and spirit”  It is more primordial than this split, more whole, more holy.  As the mind becomes receptive to this awareness it opens itself up to direct access to chi, which access, through careful contemplation, becomes gnosis.


 


In Ch’an and Zen Buddhism, the fundamental spiritual technique is to return the mind to awareness in body center chi.  What incomprehending Westerners have described as “contemplating your navel,” is concentration into this center which relocates consciousness in body generated awareness as the source of mental awareness.  It realigns the mind with the body. The experience of hara is to enter into the silent emanation of life consciousness from its source.  This emanation radiates into awareness as gnosis.


 


All of the active meditations, such as those Westerners refer to as “the martial arts,” are also disciplines which center consciousness and activity in the body center. Whereas in Zen sitting, centered stillness emanates the utter silence, “the emptiness” of gnosis, motion meditation provides experience of primordial body energy emanating into the kinesthesis of movement, which is an archetype of all physical experience.  Perhaps the greatest of these, Tai Chi and its many variations, involve balanced movements that originate from the body center, but are slowed down to the point where they become the emanation of life, the actual experienced flow of chi into movement.  The movements are archetypal positions which cultivate realignment, body consciousness as the source of all mental experience.  Devotion to these practices allows the bodily source of awareness to instruct the mind with the primordial knowing of gnosis.


 


The purpose of the entire endeavor is to bring the chi (the Garden) up into the mind, where it reforms intelligence, and returns to the heart, the center of being as blissful union. (The Kingdom)


 


Integrating the polarity of sexuality and the highest spirit means returning to the Garden of their primordial unity.  This polarity is understood and integrated, but grounded in the conscious experience of their primordial oneness.  This is the experience of monism. This is the Kingdom.  It obviates the need for domination at its core.


 


2.  The Method of Tantric Yoga


 


The process of awakening chi, or bodily awareness and allowing it to reconstitute intelligence is handled in a different way, with another kind of technology, developed in the contemplative traditions of India.  These techniques are called Tantra. There are two forms of Tantra, left- and right-handed. 


 


Left-handed Tantra proceeds by sexual practice which is actually a deep penetration into the nature of sexual energy and bodily reality. In this form of Tantra, sensuality and sexuality are cultivated into deep bodily awareness, and the achievement of high blissful states becomes a spiritual path. Orgasm is separated out from ejaculation and contemplated as the clear light of consciousness, which with practice and detachment, in time begins to radiate gnosis.  Ritual intercourse focuses on the blissful union of active and receptive (yang and yin) capacities and their divine union, which is a whole other way of achieving mind/body unification.


The Christian advocacy of the union of man and wife into one flesh in the West permits this form of access to the primordial undifferentiated consciousness.  In fact it is the only means in the Christian tradition, but because of the negation of the flesh it is virtually unspeakable.  There are no Christian scriptures prescribing how this is to proceed or be cultivated.  You say your marriage vows and then you’re on your own.  By contrast the left-handed Tantra in India and China has been a refined field of spiritual endeavor in which detailed instruction abounds.


There is much in the Tantric tradition which promises success through this methodology, but at the same time this left-handed path has always been considered very dangerous because, as anyone who has practiced it understands, it’s intrinsic pleasure tends inevitably to becomes an end in itself.  The practice originated in a culture that was not dedicated to the split of body and mind.  That split, as we have seen, creates the mutual lust of body and mind for each other, the root of our Western compulsions around sexuality.  Many Westerners are attracted into this path as a function of our sexual revolution, itself related to the attempt on the part of Westerners to heal the breach of body and mind. Except in the case of those who are unwaveringly dedicated to spiritual development, this path almost inevitably degenerates into mere cultivation of sexual pleasure and feeds into sexual addiction, a distraction which becomes increasingly destructive. Breaking with this diversion is a difficult process in its own right, requiring a drastic process such as the Twelve Steps.


 


The other form of Tantra, called “right-handed” is a systematic contemplative method for discovering body awareness, working to transform it into the intelligence of wisdom.  This is often called “seated Tantra,” because it is traditionally done cross-legged in a “lotus” position, which itself may be contemplated as the image of a unified mind and body, as the upper body sits rectified on a balanced and grounded base.


 


As in the case of Zen and Chen contemplation, seated Tantra begins with a deep cultivation of chi awareness. This means that the awareness can drop out of its mental preoccupations into pure body-based awareness.


 


This is a summary of the way chakra practice proceeds.


 


 


 


As a Tantric, one cultivates the experience of this level of consciousness, or chi, to the point where one learns to identify and inhabit this ground directly.  This is already a spiritual accomplishment as it provides a cradle or base of peace to which one can always retreat. Moreover, contemplation of chi begins to yield base knowledge of consciousness itself, which yields conscious apprehension of the nature of existence.  This is an extatic experience. Outer nature is the perfect image of chi awareness.  It constantly radiates the chi awareness which has been overlooked internally. Once this relationship is corrected through the internal accession to chi, nature becomes the blissful objective correlative of a subjective experience that reflects the primordial union before the Fall.


 


Tantra proceeds as this chi awareness grows very intense and enters the heart, where, recognizing itself, it becomes joy of universal love for all that is sensate. Further on, the chi awareness approaches the intelligence, which recognizes the apprehension as the base truth, gets informed by it, reshaped as it were in the understanding of primordial existence.  This corrects the mind’s wiring to the separated state to which Western consciousness is so committed, and regrounds it in primordial unity with the body.


 


This is the healing of the mind. It can be called the new mind, but it is “new” only in respect to the separated state, the norm which is falsely understood to be basic.  In fact it is the natural mind, the intelligence that is one with being.  The mind has been healed of The Fall, and The Garden has been regained. The mind that has lived in the intelligence and intellect of the Fall, but is regenerated by the Garden, enters the Kingdom.


 


The illumination of the new mind is experienced as bliss, which becomes the presence of the divine. This is the enlightenment of the spirit, of consciousness itself.  This bliss of enlightenment is then directed to the heart where it becomes true compassion, that is overwhelming love, experienced as an absolute dedication to the well-being of all that is sensate.  Again it is important to understand that this is not a mere intellectual or sentimental proposition, but a state of being.  This experienced conviction is directed primarily at other human beings, as it sees each individual as the one human being whose real condition is also this state.  But it is further the dedication to all that is sensate through the understanding that the physical and the sensate are actually one.


This creates the Kingdom: intrinsically one with all being and dedicated to the well-being of all that emanates from it.  This is the one God, the existential experience and grounding in the one, the state of monism.


 


This existence out of the heart, the presence of God, is innately good, which means it is spontaneously moral. This is the radiant nature of the Good.  It is true morality, but until the Kingdom is realized and morality (the Good) is intrinsic to thought, morality has to be legislated and enforced from above. The necessity for this legislation returns the situation to the role of authoritative Religion, and there it becomes subject to the vicissitudes of power, best summarized in the proposition that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This perversion, which comedic commentator Bill Maher describes as “religulous” provokes the kind of anti-religious vituperation that dominates current Western Culture.


 


Perhaps you have understood the basic point that the Big Lie of the split of spirit and flesh can be supplanted by an actual experience and knowledge of the Great Truth, the primordial oneness of being.  In many ways this lies at the base of the difference between East Asian culture and Western culture derived from Semitic religion.  However, if you want to understand this further, proceed carefully.  Now we will go over this same material as it presents itself in seated Tantric practice, showing the actual steps, involving breath and visualization by which the Kingdom may be accomplished.


 


Working with the Chakras:


Visualization and the Transformation of Chi into Gnosis


        


In the very ancient tradition of Tantra the process of unifying with the roots of being became formulated into the notion of chakras, points of awareness located along the spine.  The spine is thus the image of primordial bodily consciousness. The chakras differentiate this consciousness into levels or spheres of body-based awareness.


 


 


 


 




 

 


Chakras in the spine


 


Chakras are ways of symbolizing and articulating levels of chi awareness.  They are a tool for contemplating primordial bodily awareness, articulating the root of gnosis, and integrating it into intelligence, the fruit of wisdom, thus returning consciousness to its praeternatural state, the experience of which is bliss and compassion.  It brings the Garden into full awareness, therefore producing the Kingdom.


 


The validity of the chakras is not that they physically or materially exist, but that they are an effective meditative device.  Various Tantric traditions differentiate the chi awareness into various forms.  There are systems of three, five, seven, nine, twelve, even up to 108 chakras.  This does not mean that these systems contradict each other. Each represents a different way of articulating subtle levels of bodily originating consciousness, of, as it were, cutting up the pie of given human awareness.


 


The base, source and union of these chakras are figured either as the spine, or in some traditions as a central channel rising through the center of the body from the perineum to the crown. We will stay with the more primordial image of the spine. The points of awareness envisioned along the spine are actually aspects of chi or bodily awareness.  Be clear however, this is not anatomy, and we are not competing with anatomy. The chakras located along the spine do not “objectively exist,” but constitute a tool for focusing awareness or contemplating levels of primordial awareness.  They are a mental tool for accessing pre-mental, non-derivative, or given awareness.


 


The discipline is learning how to focus contemplation in each of these points so that the level of awareness associated with it becomes completely accessible.  The visualization is enhanced by various image based aids.  Some traditions imagine that the chakras are pearls.  Some image the chakras as flowers which bloom with growing awareness of that particular aspect. 


 


3. A Scenario of the Integration Process


 


In the following I will examine generically this form of Tantra in order to  illustrate in some detail the process by which body and mind may be returned to their original unseparated state.  There follows the generic steps by which this process proceeds.


 


In this scenario we arbitrarily choose a system of seven chakras located along the spine. We will see each chakra in the image of a sun radiating this aspect of chi or bodily awareness. Each of these is a quality of chi which can be unified with intelligence.


 


1. The base chakra, a pink sun located at the perineum or tip of the spine, which radiates the conscious energy of sex and vitality.


2. The red/gold sun located at the level of the body center, which radiates fundamental bodily structure and survival.


3. The yellow sun located at the level of the solar plexus,which radiates the structure of physical reality and well being.


4. The green sun at the level of the heart, which radiates care, feeling, emotion and morality.


5. A light blue sun at the nape of the neck, which radiates intuitive knowing.


6. A dark blue sun in the center of the head, which radiates intellectual understanding.


7. A violet sun at the crown, which unifies all the chakras radiating all consciousness itself. When this sun is brought down and reunified with the heart chakra, it becomes the innate compassion at the core of unified consciousness.


 


In this scheme you can see that the unification happens by constantly reunifying the top to the bottom, in effect, heaven and earth. Just as the spine is originally one, so consciousness is one.  Therefore a special relationship exists between the polarity of chakra 1 (vitality) and 7, (highest consciousness).  This is the fundamental reunification that has to take place, because it brings the spine into its primordial unity. This is echoed in a special relationship between chakra two and six, union of intellect with the fundamental structure of body and life.  Similarly, chakra three (physical reality and well-being) informs five (intuitive knowing).  Everything revolves around the heart that draws the entire unity to itself which is the true center.


 


 


 


 


 


 


 



 


Chakra spiral


 


This unification is “new,” not in the sense that it never existed, but only in the sense that a false separation of mind and body has been rectified by the practice. I think the kind of wisdom that we find in indigenous cultures differs greatly because the separation has not taken place in the first place. However, wisdom regained from the separation, having been the condition of the mind inherited by the culture as in the West, has a special quality of transcendence.


 


So how does the practice accomplish this reunion?


 


The practitioner imagines that, as he concentrates into one of these suns, it becomes warmer, heating up, becoming brighter and brighter.  This image functions to intensify and amplify consciousness of that particular level of bodily awareness.  This facilitates bringing bodily awareness into mental awareness, thus integrating the bodily knowing with intelligence.


 


This is almost impossible to describe because our language uses name and form to serve a knowing that is more primordial than name and form.  This is why the name and form of chakras is fabricated as a means for focusing on the chakras as a way of bringing name and form back into the primordial awareness that is its source. In a way the mental imagery is a means for directing awareness into the body as its source. Once the realization is accomplished, this tool is no longer necessary.


 


The Importance of the Root Chakra


 


The root or sexual chakra has a special importance to the Big Lie and the Great Truth. Its sexual consciousness is the actual (hormonal) source of the mental projections of sexuality onto the world.  This separates the world into what turns you on and what doesn’t. This is the fundamental dynamic by which consciousness is thrown onto the world and attachment is formed.  This mechanism of attachment is the ongoing cause of the Fall whereby source and world are kept separated.


 


This is why the sexual chakra is specially important, because it is here that we find the root of the fundamental process by which our divine vitality is thrown upon the world away from the source. Knowing this, and being able to return the primordial energy to its primal bodily source becomes the possibility of true spiritual life.


 


To return the spirit from its fallenness into the world, this fundamental projection has to be reversed. The names and forms that stimulate or evoke sexual feeling has to be shut down and the awareness returned to the genitals with such intensity of focus that one reowns the root chakra as the source of sexual energy, thus reversing the natural tendency to experience the names and forms as the stimulating source.  This goes against all conditioning that has essentially thrown the fundamental vitality of sexuality onto external forms. 


 


In a way the denial and persecution of the flesh so important to many waves of puritanical reform in the history of the church was a very crude and misguided way of attempting to achieve this fundamental return of projection to source.  The “denial of the flesh” should be a process for taking divine or given vitality back from its projections, experienced as lust for sex objects, into its source so that it can then be experienced as the root of the spirit.  Instead the “mortification of the flesh” starts with a form of hatred of the bodily self and proceeds by trying to eliminate the vitality altogether. To clean the bathwater it eliminates the baby.  This is one more result of the Big Lie in Semitically derived culture.


 


         The Pattern of breathing and Visualization


 


The following generic description of chakra meditation is intended to show how Tantric traditions draw out body energy consciousness and unify it with the mind to generate gnosis.


 


In the meditation process the contemplator brings awareness back into the chakra by very controlled breath and visualization into the transformative modification of intelligence and the realization of blissful totality and compassion.   With breath slowed to a constant long inhale and exhale, it may proceed something like the following:


 






 


Long slow inhale


You direct awareness, envisioned as intense heat bursting into flame concentrated into the spine.


Slow exhale


You concentrate awareness into the chakra or sun, which you envision as becoming very hot and luminous.


Slow inhale


You see the heat specific to the chakra as fire in the spine experienced as concentrated awareness, and you envisioned it traveling up the spine where it becomes very brilliant, illuminating the blue sun, reforming your intellect.  This is the union of body awareness and intelligence.


Slow exhale


This union creates its own joy of reunion which you envision as the heat of the chakra being shot up into the violet sun, the crown chakra, the totality of consciousness.  The experience of the totality is no longer ideational or conceptual, but is pure experience of the blissful nature of consciousness itself. 


Slow inhale


You then visualize this heated, brilliant bliss, the realized crown chakra, descending into the heart which it inflames with compassion. 


Slow exhale
You then breathe this compassion out through the body, charging it with awareness (chi), out into the consciousness of all beings in the universe.

 

 


This elaborate routine with each chakra is neither magical nor a one time thing.  It is a tool so alien to the Western mind that it takes years to really understand what one is doing.  I have been working with it for forty years. One has to become very adept, first at doing the visualizations and the breathing, then learning how to use this experience as a “lens” for observing the corresponding subtlety of bodily awareness, then as a tool for branding the intelligence with primordial bodily awareness, which produces a unification by which the totality of consciousness can be realized. This is true contemplation. 


 


Therefore to become “an adept” the routine has to be practiced under the guidance of an accomplished proficient, through subtle trial and error, often over many repetitions, even many years.  With increasing proficiency in the use of the technique, it becomes a genuine pattern of contemplation.  It is this genuine contemplation which clarifies consciousness and gradually brings about gnosis.


 


The Systematic Transformation of the Chakras into Gnosis


 


Now on the model of breath and visioning just described let us go through the seven chakras, imagining each as a sun that radiates its own aspect of consciousness.


 


 


The first three chakras bring the bodily consciousness up into the mind. The last three bring the mental consciousness down into the bodily consciousness. They meet in the heart which is the center of being.  In this way the mind and body consciousness rediscovers its preseparated unity.


 


The routine of the first three chakras brings illuminated body consciousness up into integration with the mind.


 


The first chakra, imagined as a pink sun located in the perineum, radiates enthusiasm and connection and furtherance of life.  When expressed through imagination, it becomes our sexual fascination and obsession with objects in the world. 


 


 


Experienced as chi on the inhale, it is withdrawn into its source in the perineum and, as a form of chi, experienced as pure vitality heated into concentrated life-positive force. With the outbreath it is brought up through the spine to the body center where it is experienced as the sense and instinct of moderation and balance, then up to the heart where it recognizes its own innate knowledge of the given or unconditional way of life as the instinct of what becomes known in Buddhism as “the middle way.” Then into the mind infusing it with the value of pure vital energy, life as ground wisdom, or dharma.  On the inhale this fundamental enthusiasm rises to the violet crown sun exploding into the fundamental blissful nature of consciousness itself. When this fundamental life enthusiasm and wisdom descends into the heart it recognizes its ground as the way of life itself, which breathed out into the consciousness shared with all sensate beings becomes pure life empathy and oneness, that is indubitable compassion for all things alive.  This results in the experience of oneness.


 


2. The second chakra is the red gold sun in the body center.  It radiates chi consciousness of the physical structure of the body, balance and the will of survival. When expressed through imagination, it becomes physical awareness and the drive of all commitment.


 


Inhaling fire into the spine and focusing into the body center, the red-gold sun becomes hot and luminous with the fundamental sense of body structure and survival (hara).  Passing through the heart chakra on the exhale, it becomes a sense of fortitude, of intrinsic justice, the path to the fruition of harmony. As it rises and heats the mind chakra it is experienced as will, commitment, definitive priority of life for self, loved ones, and species, and the intelligence of accommodation and organization.  Inhaling, it shoots out into the crown chakra experienced as the gnosis of the good as the center of existence.  Exhaling, it is brought down again into the heart, radiating as the wisdom of being producing foundational love, which is compassion.


 


3 The third chakra, the yellow sun at the solar plexus is the sense of physical reality. When  projected into the imagination it becomes “isness” or factuality,  the common structure of the physical body and world reality to which all intelligence of the outer world refers.


 


Inhaling fire into the spinal channel the yellow sun heats up and in the body center radiates chi as a sense of the common structure of physical and world reality. Reaching the heart it becomes a sense for conducting the self in this reality common to others, an empathetic sense of ones own needs among the needs or others, which produces temperance. Rising to the mind it brands intelligence with clarity about shared reality, brotherhood, truthfulness.  Shooting out the top of the head the chi heat becomes the gnosis of the peace of the union of spiritual and physical reality.  Brought back down into the heart it radiates into the common human world emptiness experienced as clarity in the common world.


 


4.  The fourth chakra is the green sun at the heart level shining forth care, emotion and morality.  When projected into mind it becomes the cares of our subjective world and the integrity of morality.  This is the center of the chakras and the sun in which mind and body reunite in the realization of original unity.


 


Inhaling fire into the spinal channel, the green sun heats up, filling the spinal channel with green fire.  On the exhale, the green body center radiates the awareness of all humans as one and the same consciousness, the knowing of which is omniscience.  As the fire reaches the heart it is experienced as limitless tolerance and the capacity for forgiveness.  Rising to the mind it becomes the commonality of all human hearts, sociable empathy, in its pure form, the omniscience which is the intelligence of “understanding”. Shooting out the top of the head the chi heat becomes the gnosis of the transcendental, the one consciousness that we all are.  Brought back down into the heart this is the truth of compassion, the ground of all morality.


 


As the lower three chakras bring the wisdom of chi up into the mind, so the higher three bring the mind down into the body.  This is the second phase of the integration process.


 


5. The fifth chakra at the nape of the neck is the intuition that refers back to the common structure of world reality, the isness of actuality, and construes its truth in terms of the common human heart.


 


Inhaling fire into the spinal channel, the light blue sun heats up and shines forth in the body center as chi in the sense of the strength of the wisdom of compassion. Rising to the heart with the exhale, this chi becomes realization of self which produces the essential prudence that is appropriate in the community of humankind.  Rising to the intelligence it modifies the understanding of balance and responsibility, confidence in ones own practical wisdom and respect for all, the intuitive clarity of the archetypal pilgrim path, or dharma.  Shooting out into the crown the chi becomes the gnosis of the nature of self and its path.  Brought back down into the heart it radiates the non-conceptual richness which is true knowing.


 


6.  The sixth chakra at the center of the brain is the intellectual center which refers back to the body center, the source of chi, the structure of life and the adaptation necessary for survival and well being.


 


Inhaling fire into the spine and focusing into the mind center, it becomes hot and luminous and shines forth in the body center as truth.  Rising to the heart, this chi generates serenity and loyalty to truth.  Returning to the mind, reinforced with the chi, the intellect corresponds now to dharma, the beauty of all being, and wisdom as truth without position.  Shooting out into the crown the chi becomes the gnosis of liberation, which is freedom from all false attachment and posture.  Brought back down into the heart it radiates goodness and the sense of perfection.


 


7.  The seventh chakra at the crown of the head represents the entire spine as the whole of consciousness, the experience of which becomes the gnosis of wholeness, all consciousness.


 


Inhaling fire into the spine and focusing into the violet sun at the crown it becomes hot and luminous, sending violet flames into the spine.  As it focuses into the body center the violet sun shines forth as divine love which encompasses all.  Moving up into the heart it shines forth as goodness and into the mind it becomes immovable, solid wisdom.  At the crown it becomes the gnosis of pure diamond consciousness, the almighty.  Brought back down into the heart this bliss is experienced as ground consciousness radiating light and silent compassion into all humanity as its ground consciousness.



 


 


 


 


 


 



Leonardo’s Vetruvian Man with Chakras

 


 The Peace of the Great Truth


 At the end of what may be a very laborious process, the adept contemplator realizes that this luminous state of being is in fact the beginning, that which is and always has been present.   The primordial given state of consciousness, realized, becomes the enlightened state.  The Garden becomes the Kingdom, which is experienced as the true and absolute home of our being.   This is ultimate well-being.  The addictions of the body lose their hold. There is no longer any conflict between mind and body. There is no question as to the existence of God. Thus all spiritual and mental tension is released, resulting in a profound, inconceivable relaxation which the Upanishads calls, “the peace which passeth all understanding”.

South America and Beyond March-April 2009

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You may also cut and paste the following: web.me.com/stephenmorey/South_American_Cruise/Welcome.html

The AMSTERDAM
Journey from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Seattle, Washington
12 March to 24 April 2009

As a devoted traveler throughout my adult life, I have come to understand that the discovery of the world is the discovery of the Self.  At 68, to be discovering a new continent is to discover unknown aspects of ones own being, to put things together in new and original ways, which is invigorating, indeed thrilling.  In Rio de Janeiro I have visited my great passion for the primordial and the transcendent.  In Buenos Aires, I have refound my new world fascination with Europe and my inveterate joy in the elegance of élan with style and flair, my inner tango.  And so it goes…

Rio de Janeiro, 12 to 17 March 2009

This place is Fabulous. 
I am finding this adventure pretty exhausting, primarily because I am so excited to be in South America that I am not sleeping very well, and of course burning the candle at both ends.
Shortly after I arrived in Rio with permanent sidekick Ram, we were blessed to be joined by my half Brazilian goddaughter, Luciana Lamont, who just coincidently happened to be visiting Brazil from England.  This luminous beauty guided us through our awkward orientation to the ways of Rio, its neighborhoods and cuisine.  We enjoyed so many delicious Brazilian dishes, that we felt like we were already putting on pounds, and the chronic feasting of our upcoming cruise had yet to begin!  So I decided we should juice fast for our two last days in Rio.  This was fabulous, as the juice shops are everywhere, featuring fruits that I have never even heard of, which have all sorts of exotic nutritional elements.  Also economical! After those two days I had unbelievable energy.
As we were flying into Rio, I was struck by the exotic sensuousness of the landscape, its weird mountains threaded with the waters of the bay, lined with pristine white beaches.
The earth rises up in dramatic and primeval shapes, covered in luscious tropical greenery and appearing from every perspective behind the many white highrises.
We were staying at the famous Copacabana Beach, very wide and bounded by mosaic walkways of a sensuous black and white wavy pattern.  Everyone walks around in bikinis and Speedos — whatever their body shapes – tan, relaxed, rhythmic.  Nearby are the upscale beaches of fashionable Ipanema and Leblon.  They are all lined with wide boulevards and Fifties buildings with balconies facing out to the waters. We enjoyed time on the beaches with Luciana.  The water was quite bracing and often there was quite high surf.
After Luciana left we visited the museums and the old part of the city, with its grandiose European style buildings and exquisite Baroque churches, though particularly striking was the huge Seventies Oscar Niemeyer Cathedral of Saint Sebastian, which is wonderfully reminiscent of a pre-Columbian pyramid.
Saint Sebastian, who was tortured to death, seems a fundamentally appropriate saint for South America, as I am discovering by reading its history.  Armored with the entitlement of “the one true religion”, ruthless, gold frenzied Conquistadores brought down within a few years, the two great native civilizations, the Aztecs and the Incas, and enslaved the entire indigenous population of the continent.  When this slave labor died out or failed to keep up with the greed of the Iberians, they imported some millions of slaves from Africa.  In Rio, the descendents of these dispossessed peoples live in favelas, colorfully painted slums that spill down in the high valleys between the great monoliths above the white buildings of the city.  Millions more of these heirs to the exploitation and greed of the white men of Christendom are the majority in Brazil.  Happily, the country’s president, called Lula, himself from this background, has turned his attention to their plight, representing a political movement that is slowly taking over the countries of South America.
From any distance, appearing everywhere mysteriously between buildings, on a dramatic humpbacked promontory dominating the whole of Rio is a white figure that looks like a cross, but is in fact Christ the Redeemer with outspread arms.
We had the occasion twice to ascend through a green jungle to this highest of all summits.  Up close and personal, the modernist statue becomes even more amazing.  This divine figure is the height of a three-storey building and weighs 14,000 tons.  It has been designated one of the seven wonders of the modern world.
After five days in Rio, with mounting excitement, we boarded the Amsterdam, which is to be our home for 40 days. Towards evening we set sail, gliding out of the harbor watching the city pass before us with its beaches, ritzy white buildings, colorful slums and the strange verdant primordial shapes behind.  Above it all, the Christ was illuminated from behind by a white sunset.

The Ship
The Amsterdam is a wonderful ship, just the right size for me, unlike the horizontal skyscraper I took to Alaska.
However, there are disappointments. 
I worked on my Spanish for months before coming on this trip, but the Ship is Dutch and bears no relationship at all to South America. It is a big neutral international hotel. Most of the serving staff are Indonesians, who I have enjoyed for years in Bali, and I have lots of practice speaking Indonesian – but nada Espagnol!
Activities — bingo, gambling, adult games — have no relationship to where we are or where we are going, except for a couple of terrific lectures every day on the ports of call and the natural life of the southern cone of South America.
Almost everyone on the ship and our sub-group based in Seattle seems to be Middle American and older than I am, and Ram complains that he feels old.  But there are exceptions, and every day I meet someone new or interesting. 

What is neat about the ship is that it is beautiful with very lovely, classy fixtures and decor.  For an old land explorer like me, the concept of a cruise is terrific.  The set-up obviates the really tiring parts: finding a hotel, schlepping baggage, packing and unpacking, getting used to another home.  Also, orienting to a new place is exhausting and tiring.  In this case, your luxury hotel takes you to your destination and waits for you there.  Anywhere you are on this journey, your comfy room is nearby,together with fabulous food and facilities.  It is very grounding.
Being on “shore excursions” isolates you from almost any genuine experience of the culture, but I am already planning some kind of trip back here with one of my friends who knows Latin America well and can bring me into that dimension of things.
There are so many attractions and distractions available on the ship that one can get exhausted trying to take advantage of them all.  So at first I was frantic and of course over-eating to where I was constantly in self-induced intestinal pain.  After a few days of this, things have settled down.
I am immersed on my own in studying Spanish and reading the history of Latin America. 
It is just like home – overeating and Middle America are there, as is approaching old age.  But I create my own reality, choosing among these as I wish.
     
Argentina
As I study Latin American History, there are patterns create
d through the whole continent: disaffected majorities of the Indian and black slaves who built “Latin America” and increasingly call for a place in civil society and the socialism that tries to recognize them, landed Aristocracy who push for oligarchic governments that serve their conservative interests, economic and political confusion no one can resolve, but greed for power always there to usurp the situation and try.  Then of course, there is the military and its dictators, who seize power and eventually mess things up even more.  In the Twentieth Century, these histories become almost comical. I feel ashamed that my country, with its unique combination of power and naiveté, has not always been on the right side of things, especially in its paranoia about the paper tiger of communism and resultant support of military dictatorships, which were murderously repressive.  Studying this as I sail around the continent is fabulous, an opera composed in Latin music.
Argentina is the prototype.  They do it all with tremendous drama and flair, but it is also tragic.  All of this is expressed in its music, which I have always distantly loved, but now come more and more to understand emotionally and existentially.

Buenos Aires  20 March
If Rio was a transcendent fantasy, Buenos Aries seems most earthly.
It is almost like a European City.  Like East Coast cities in the US there are many European cultural elements, but here mixed into a unique blend different from North America and with a Latin flair.  It is another way of combining the elements and is fascinating on that basis alone.
Shortly before we left for the trip, we watched Evita.  Now I see that she made a heart connection with the oppressed majority from which she herself came and therefore gave a compassionate, even saintly touch to her husband Peron, who combined being a part of the military with working with the unions.
We visited the square with the pink palace from whose balcony Evita delivered many of her heartfelt emotional addresses to the people of the country.  At her ornate family mausoleum, our tour guide, a Latin charmer with slicked back hair, explained the deep division in the country about her even to this day.  She came from the poor, but she died very rich by all the nefarious means of those in power, so this is the under story: power and greed always have their way with even the most compassionate leaders.
My favorite was the evening of tango, displaying its many faces and styles.  What has been described as “a vertical activity expressing the passion of a horizontal one” is the Latin soul and style with which this political opera has been played out.  It speaks deeply to me in its emotional longing and crisp, disciplined elegance.

Montevideo, Uruguay  March 22
The day after Buenos Aires, we stopped in nearby Montevideo, Uruguay.  A friend and ex-cousin, Karen Maddox, who now lives down there with her new husband, came to meet us for lunch and showed us around the city.  Everyone in the country carries in their hand a mate gourd for yerba tea, and, clutched in their arm, a matching thermos filled with the hot water that they keep pouring into the leaves in the gourd.  Karen called it a one armed country.

Port Stanley, The Falklands  March 25  
After two more days of increasing cold at sea, we put into the barren Falkland Islands, which the Argentines, with geographic righteousness, lust after as the Malvinas. After all this Latin infusion, it was strange to find myself in little old England having fish and chips surrounded by pictures of the Queen and Margaret Thatcher, but such is the strange admixture of South America. Here we were able to watch lots of penguins, whose populations are greater than all the limeys down here.

Cape Horn  March 26
As we were nearing the southern most islands off the South American continent, it was cold and very windy, and the seas were quite wild.  Everyone was bundled up, stumbling around as though seriously drunk.  You walk outside at your own peril, as the winds are wild enough to throw you off. The sky is brilliantly cloudy and the whitecaps make the turgid sea as white as it is blue.

I think back to a family legend of my favorite ancestor, Louis LaRoque, who came to Canada, probably as a refugee from a Europe not progressive enough in that impatient time.  He moved to Canada, throwing over his old religion, and changed his name to Rock.  We have a photo of this dashing devil, and I always fancy I look like him.  He rounded the Cape in a ship bound for California and the Gold Rush.  As the story goes, when the captain tried to get him to work, he threatened to throw the man overboard.
I think of him traveling in his little ship rounding the horn in this wild sea and wonder if he could ever have imagined that 150 years later his descendent would be rounding it once again in the high tech luxury and comfort of this great ship.

The Cape is as far south of the equator as Juno is north of it.  As we approach the actual island, the sea becomes even wilder. The first person to actually round it was a Dutchman from Hoorn, Holland, who gave it its name. What did he feel like in his little ship? The sky is cloudy, but the sun shines through in places in fevered shafts lighting up the boiling ocean. This high drama is a fitting spectacle for the rebirth from Atlantic to Pacific Culture.
Ram and I found a refuge right outside of our stateroom that was strangely protected from the gale force winds.  We sat huddled in every layer we had with us. Bizarre and wild rock formations rose out of the sea.
Approaching the Cape, it was too wild to go around, so the ship stopped in front of the huge grey island, then turned and headed up north, the critical turn in this whole voyage.
Our confusion about this (did we round the horn or not?) was something of a comical damper on the excitement of the event, but the whole experience was wonderful.

Ushuaia, Argentina   March 27
At the tip of the cone of South America, the continent, sculpted by crushing tectonic plates eroded by glaciers, is fragmented into lots of islands of various sizes.  The largest and southernmost has the wonderful name of Land of the Fire, “Tierra del Fuego”.  We arrived there the morning after (maybe) rounding the horn, at Ushuaia, the southernmost city on the continent.  All bundled up, we took a trip up into the national forest to see the lakes and trees and snow decked grey mountains everywhere visible, and the exotic wildlife that lives there.  Then we returned to the town and visited the notorious penal colony, in whose cells political and criminal misfits were incarcerated.  Now it is a charming museum, with each small cell containing a different exhibit about every aspect of the area.
Enthralled, I walked around town until the last minute.  Hurrying out to the ship, I passed a platform where tango music was playing.  A portly couple in their seventies was dancing together.  She wore long skirts, and he was in macho gaucho regalia, but under the tan leather scarf wrapped diagonally from his waist to below his knees, the bottom of his pants were white with descending rows of frills looking like the pantaloons worn by Victorian women under their voluminous skirts!?!  My heart skipped a beat. 
I think I fell in love with Argentina.

Life on the Ship
Last night I had again occasion to think of my great great great grandfather and his voyage around the horn. After it got dark and I could not stand the cold any more, we dressed for formal dinner, hurried off to the posh double storied restaurant, had a brilliant four course dinner, went to a big screen showing of Slumdog Millionaire (great fairy tale) then a late Greek style snack and then the late show of Indonesian music and dance put on by the staff.  This is the hard life on the ship!  Wonder what Louis Rock did t
he night he rounded the horn?
I now realize that the sum of advance in the century and a half that separates us is comfort.

I have surrendered to the fact that I am practicing more Indonesian than Spanish on this trip. I love the Indonesians so very much, which is nothing new, though eternally enjoyable.  As I have long experienced in Bali, their egoless service of self-indulgent Westerners is breathtaking.

Last night we had a dessert extravaganza.  Surrounding the pool were tables piled high with hundreds of cakes, puddings, tarts, and pies festooning ice sculptures.  Unfortunately, we were on quite rough seas, so it was rather poorly attended and the water was sloshing about in the pool.  Thinking of the numbers of people in the world who are now feeling anxiety about where they will get their next meal, I felt more evidence for my gathering perception that the present economic slowdown is covertly fuelled by a spiritual revulsion at the excess of our materialistic culture.  This display called to mind Marie Antoinette’s vaunted dictum just before the revolution overwhelmed her world, “Let them eat cake.”  After circumnavigating this display several times, and with great piety, I chose from the sugarless table only a cocktail glass filled with Jell-O stratified in layers of different shades of red.  Some of this piety may have been fuelled by the fact that one hour before at dinner I had polished off a meringue filled with passion-fruit mousse and then finished Ram’s chocolate cake….

The Continent
Part of what has excited me about this trip is the experience of a new continent.  We all need a new continent from time to time.  What that means, as it turns out, is a new configuration of perception, based on a different kind of understanding and experience of the world.  This comes by glimpsing other manifestations of civilization, but also experiencing a new continental configuration and another perspective of the earth.  The incremental experience I am having must be nothing to the experience of those who have traveled to the edges of our atmosphere and look back at the earth, which foretells vast and fundamental change to come.
The nature here at the southern part of the continent is spectacular, a showplace of amazing natural architecture. The Torres del Paine mountaintops march to the southern tip of Patagonia, where they climax in a dramatic meeting with the Southern Ocean. In many ways it is the kind of landscape we experienced a few years ago on a cruise of the top of the Pacific Coast in Alaska. Enormous tectonic plates have collided, throwing up spectacular peaks.  During the ice age, all but the highest peaks were largely covered in glaciers, which shaped and etched the mountains and dredged the islands.  We glide through these Chilean fjords in the Darwin Channel, gazing at retreating glaciers that remain, enchanted by the heavenly luminous blue that emanates from them.
I have been tracking the stories of the 16th C explorers and how their journeys changed the world, but also closely monitoring the experience of Darwin as he covered this same continental coast.  I have read quite a lot of his account, The Voyage of the Beagle, but the ship’s lecturer, who is a naturalist, has also been discussing Darwin and his adventure.  Of particular interest to me is how Darwin’s observations on this trip began a process, characterized by incremental insights, by which he much later came up with his shattering theories.  For instance, experiencing a volcano on an island I am just now passing, and observing the geology of the area, gave him the evidence of the vastness of time, which later became the possibility for there being any such thing as the infinitely gradual process of evolution.  In the European culture he came from, such vastness of time was inconceivable.  The mind resists such advances, and the great explorers of human knowledge have a unique kind of courage, akin to that of explorers but of a subtler kind.
They experience evidence that forces them to think outside the box. Here are two interesting features of this process in the case of Darwin. First of all, as to exposure to the new, when Darwin finished this long journey, he was so overloaded with new experiences that, once back in England, he barely ever left his home again. Symbolic of the resistance to new thinking was Robert Fitzroy, the captain of the Beagle, whose predecessor on the ship had gone mad at the lower tip of the continent I have just passed (it is that far out!) and committed suicide. To keep himself from the same fate, Captain Fitzroy invited Darwin, then a young Cambridge theology student, to accompany him as a gentleman companion on this long voyage.  Fitzroy was a fundamentalist believer.  Years later, when Darwin’s new impressions had congealed into his shocking theories of evolution, Fitzroy, despairing of his part in it, himself committed suicide.
In my own ways, I find myself arriving into newness of understanding in my own preoccupations.
Part of this is the insights occurring as a result of deep and complex meditations I am doing on the full days at sea as part of my long involvement with my mystical School, Arica.  This training is too vast and secret to go into here, but in addition to the fact that its effects are intensified down here at the end of the world, Oscar Ichazo, the School’s Bolivian teaching master, presented the first training for North Americans in Chile. For almost 40 years I have been engaging with this “holy work”, but only now, on this journey, am I able to savor its subtle Latin roots.  Also, the Amsterdam will be visiting that place in Chile, Arica.

Chile  March 30 to April 5, 2009

Being in legendary South America is full of subtle revelations.  For instance, I always pronounced this country’s name as ‘chilly’.  But now I discover CHEE lay.  Much more beautiful, subtle and exotic.  I say it over and over to myself here, as it is a kind of sensual revelation.

Chile is a very long skinny country between the Pacific Coast and the peaks of the Andes.  It is cold in the south and hot in the north, with all the landscapes to match.  Our first stop was the southernmost town of Punta Arenas down in Chilean Patagonia.  We drove over vast plains with the white mountains in the distance, entertained by strange flora and fauna, such as llama and reh, a species of ostrich with downy grey feathers.
We went to an Estancia, a ranch where we watched a sheep being sheared and a show of gaucho cow-herding elegance. South American machos revel in their domination of animals, a telling quality. Then greeted by the lovely mistress of the Estancia, we had Pino Saur, the strong national drink, and a feast washed down with Chilean wine, while we fraternized with the charming family that own the ranch.
The whole diet of Argentina and southern Chile is based on meat. Things like veggies are a boring afterthought. Animals are senseless creatures for human exploitation and consumption, reflecting the traditional attitude towards the indigenous peoples of the continent. This attitude is very graphically represented by the custom, in which the locals take great pride, of splitting the animal and splaying its skeleton on a rack before the fire. Having long ago tuned into the sensitivity of animals, particularly our cousin mammals, the whole business is grossly unaesthetic to me, and Ram had to remind me repeatedly to keep my opinions to myself as everyone gorged on mounds of flesh.  To be a sport I had one small bite, but it brought up childhood memories of being forced to eat meat, and I discreetly removed it to the side of my plate.  No one noticed, because everyone was decidedly drunk.

The more experienced I grow in the world and the more I study its history, the more I come to believe in the most concise analysis of
the evils of politics uttered in the great dictum of Lord Acton: “Power corrupts.  Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  Of course we see this all over the world, but Latin America, with its irreconcilable political and economic realities, and its love of charismatic macho caudillos, is its poster child.
In this regard, I see the true greatness of the American Constitution, not in the fact that it represents democracy, but that it addresses this issue of power with term limits and the carefully structured balance among the branches of government.  Still, our leaders chafe at the bit, as we saw with Nixon and, more recently Cheney and Bush, who connived to redistribute this power into the Executive Branch.  One of the many things I respect about Obama is that he devoted so much of his academic career to studying and teaching the constitution.  There is no doubt that he understands this underlying principle, though his popularity and the dire situation left by the executive excesses of Cheney and Bush may thrust him into the position by which leaders in Latin America always become dictators.
Wonder of wonders, now both Argentina and Chile have women for presidents.  This started when Peron’s widow, Isabel, who, echoing the popularity of Peron’s former wife Evita, became president.  The present Argentinean woman president is the wife of the last president, Kirchner, and is regarded as just a puppet continuation of his power.  Maybe the tipping point was when Margaret Thatcher thumped the macho Argentinean military dictator over the Falklands. 
Madame Michelle Bachelet, the Chilean President, is a doctor.  I asked a local how it is that she became president, and she said, the women all voted for her.  Now there’s an impressive and worthwhile majority!
I like giving women a chance, but my uber-guide, Leo Gabriel, old friend from think-tank days, tells me that she has been very nasty in her treatment of the indigenous Mapuche. Thatcher also proved what probably should be an amendment to Lord Acton’s dictum:  Power corrupts… and that goes for women, too. 

The next stop of the ship, a few hundred miles north was Puerto Montt. Everything has a decidedly Bavarian flavor.  Our guide, Ruby, told us at length about her Austrian and German ancestors who came there about the time Louis Rock was rounding the horn.
Spectacularly lovely was the Lake District, with its nearby snow-covered volcanoes and Andes Mountains behind.  We went boating on a large luminous lake.  It seemed remarkably like Austria.
There are no homeless in the country. Socialism provides minimal health care and education for all. There were many housing settlements. The government subsidizes housing that you can buy for $600 down.

Several more hundreds of miles up the coast the ship stopped in the hilly port of Valparaiso, and we drove two hours through two fertile valleys, looking very much like California, to Santiago, the huge and smoggy capital city.  We stopped at the Capitol, where Pinochet’s coup resulted in Allende’s death.  Pinochet presided over a reign of terror supported covertly by America. We arrived at the parade ground before the capitol just in time for the changing of the guard.  The troops were elegant with their macho high boots, green riding trousers and cream-colored coats.  The sergeant at arms barking the orders was a woman.  Inside the capitol was the woman president, Michelle Bachelet, who, though she has not served the Mapuche Indians, has apparently done much towards creating a more civil society.  This is the new wave of a Latin America democratically dedicated to the well being of the great majority instead of the dictatorship of the privileged few.
A highlight was a lunch in a lovely park, where I was joined by Marcelo Fernandez, one of the members of Oscar Ichazo’s original school here in Chile.  We had an intense but short meeting about the Work of our mystery school.
The visit in Santiago ended at the old monastery of San Domenico, still retaining the flavor of a 16th C settlement, but now filled with artisans and their workshops.

My Declaration of Independencia
I am reading about how Ferdinand and Isabella combined Church and Crown to order the creation of a new civilization on this continent.  Three hundred years later, Napoleon wrecked this set up in Iberia and made space for new ideas.  The new world began the adventure of independence and ordering itself, a chaotic process which is still unfolding. 
I have had my own little drama to reflect this.  The Ship and the tour companies are aligned so that on your one day in port, you can be shepherded about the sights without chaos.  It is expensive but comfortable. However, it is little more than a travelogue for consumers of packaged sights and sounds, people who have no originality or are too tired in life to exercise it.  Mostly Americans over 70, they chatter away in the bus with their honky accents gossiping and making inane observations, and the whole event is exhaustingly mediocre.
In short, like the colonies, you sacrifice original self-determination for the comfort of order. And border wars begin. I have avoided traveling like this my whole life, but we had a chance to buy at a good price a whole package of tours on the first half of the cruise. Ram’s comfort margin is more developed than mine, and as there is a margin of chaos and error in discovering a new place on ones own, with the cruise schedule, there is no time for that.  There is a tradeoff.
Yesterday, we had our first time on our own, and I reveled in independencia, but yes it was somewhat exhausting and we had new border wars.  It was however the first time I really felt adventure not stifled by comfort, and the first time I had some chance to talk with the locals in Spanish.
We stopped in the Chilean port of Coquimbo and went to the little nearby town of La Serena, small, beautifully colonial and full of local life. Even then, for a day, you hardly even arrive before you are sailing away.

Arica  5 April
Our final stop in Chile was where Oscar Ichazo trained the group of 40 Americans in 1970, who then returned to America and started the School. The previous day at sea I had done a very long meditation and had had, as so often happens, a very high and fundamental experience.  I felt such gratitude for this Work and its reward of what I most want in life, that I felt very moved when I woke up the next morning and looked out at Arica.  We have no focus for the gifts we receive from this Work, nothing that we worship, so I felt a great rush as I looked out at this little place where it all began.

The little place is located in the Anacama desert, the driest place on earth.  There is something unbelievably stark and radically pure about it.  Arica is a small town on the sea with a great rock cliff to one side called El Morro.  There a decisive battle in 1880 resulted in Chile annexing this piece of land, which was formerly part of Peru.  We visited an anthropological institute in the desert and saw excellent exhibits of the indigenous cultures that have lived here for millennia in ecological harmony.  Starkness, indigenous and natural consciousness, radical purity of being – all features and goals of the Arica Work.

The Ship
As it turns out, the days at sea are really essential, as the traveling around during the port calls is very condensed and tiring.
My Indonesian is improving at a faster pace than my Spanish, and these little guys are so dear in their selfless service.  They love that I speak Indonesian with them.  They have a delightful custom, which is that each night they leave in our room a different animal cleverly created by folding white towels.  Last night I went in and there was a monkey hanging from the ceiling!
I really did have a hard time with the fact that a majority of the people are Middle Americans, psychic
ally underprivileged and older than myself, but I have made my peace with it.  Here is a small sample of how we do things in Arica. First I identified this as just another version of my lifelong struggle with arrogance, possibly masking my own mediocrity.  Second, I realize that these older people, previews of detractions to come, constantly thrust before me my growing distress with aging.  We have a mantra in Arica, WE ARE ONE, by which we recognize that all humans are fundamentally one and the same.  Whenever I enter a group of those Middle Americans, I just start repeating this mantra to myself, which always catalyzes my discomfort. Then when I engage with them individually, I always find an engaging individual, often an interesting one, and so it goes until I have come to a place of peace.

Speaking of peace, just being on this great ship as it moves hugely through the waters, standing in the breeze at the rail outside our room, the sky performing its constantly changing grandeur, watching over the great blue ocean whose horizon displays a hint of the enormous curvature of the earth, rocking slightly, hearing the waters swish by…

Towards the Center

The Equator  11 April, 2009
We have stowed away our coats, hats and gloves, and now it is hot!
We crossed the equator with a visit from King Neptune and his mermaids and, in order to assure a safe passage, a ceremony traditionally performed before the assembled passengers and a tribunal of senior officers.  Pirates brought out a cage containing members of the staff who were crossing the Equator for the first time, accused them of ridiculous crimes, forced them to hug a great fish, smudged them with slime in psychedelic colors and threw them into the pool.
I wandered away from all this trumped-up hilarity to a lonely place on the ship and watched the glistening vastness of the equatorial sea with considerable sadness. We have returned from the wonders of the upside- down world.  It is no longer late summer, but early spring.  Every other day we set our clocks one hour earlier as the ship makes its way back to California time and reality.

Much happened before we reached the Equator. After leaving CHEE lay, we sailed for a day up the coast of Peru (Pay RRU) to Callao and spent two days in nearby Lima, the capital and cultural hub.  We took a break from the ship and spent a night in upscale Miraflores.
American friends who hang out in Peru had told me to forget about Lima, but I loved it.  For three centuries it was the most important metropolis in South America, called the City of the Kings.  All this shows in its colonial splendor, especially in the imposing Plaza Major, enclosed by grand buildings, many featuring elaborately carved wooden balconies in Moorish style.  One really felt the formidable grace and power of Spain.
We had a terrific guide, Felix, who took us through the great Baroque Cathedral, featuring a tomb containing the remains of rapacious Francisco Pizarro and elaborate mosaics glorifying his crude conquest of the Inca.  We then went around to the Convent of San Francisco, with its musty crypts containing fifty thousand skeletons.  At one point we walked out of its gracious cloisters into a creaking library lined with walls of 16th C books and illuminated by crystal chandeliers. Suddenly I felt jolted back to colonial and evangelical grandeur with that radical recognition I have been here before …in another lifetime?  Could this explain why I am so sensitive to all this?
Returning to the Plaza, we watched another Changing of the Guard before the Palacio de Gobierno.  This time the dress guard was wearing red and blue uniforms, strutting about to Karl Orff’s Carmina Burana, which was somehow primevally appropriate.
We liked Felix so much that we asked him to spend the rest of the day with us, and he became our friend.  He walked us through the place where the Inquisition trials took place.  There, wandering among displays of torture and punishment, I had the revelation that the true antichrist is the desire for control and that the church itself has been more on this side than on the side of its loving founder.  Here too power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
I noticed a preponderance of short, squat people of native descent. We walked through the old city with Felix, and had lunch in what felt like a French Brasserie.  He told us the story of Fujimori.  Like Pinochet, the former Japanese President did some good things for the country, but he had been ruthless in suppressing opposition.  That very day, he had been found guilty of human rights abuses and sentenced to twenty-five years in prison. His daughter, Kiko, who served as his first lady, is now a leading candidate for president.  Such is the soap opera of Latin American politics.
After lunch Felix took us to an anthropological museum, where a refined young lady with braces on her teeth walked us through ten millennia of indigenous civilization.  The last room displayed the arrival of the Spanish, who, in the name of Christ — through conquest, disease, and enslavement — wiped out about 90% of the aboriginals.
We walked around Puebla Libre, a lovely little section of Lima, visiting a wine house where they distill their intense brandy, which we sampled.  Slightly altered in consciousness, we walked into a church courtyard where they were preparing for a procession.  Tomorrow is Palm Sunday.  It is the custom that a different family each year is responsible for preparing the platforms of the icons, which are carried through the streets in the procession.  All the statues look like they came out of Mel Gibson’s PASSION. A brutally wounded Christ is carrying the cross.  Mary, with glistening eyes raised upward, has ten Spanish swords penetrating her heart. 
Watching this touching scene, I realized a whole dimension of Christianity in Latin America beyond our Northern world.  Here is what it amounts to: after destroying their bodies and souls, the Spanish gave them a murdered god with a broken hearted mother to identify with.  The little family were lovingly festooning the platforms with flowers.
After spending the night in a charming, but exceedingly noisy hotel, we went to a native market, with lots of merchants of indigenous descent begging us to buy things nobody needs.
Then, before returning to the ship, we went to a gold museum displaying a collection of exquisite items and demonstrating how the gold and silver artifacts were created and used.  The Inca Empire was an ambitious and audacious civilizing project based on the harmony of the relationships between human beings, nature, and the gods. Particularly striking to me was the way these materials that fed the precious metal famine of Europe, were valued by the Inca not for any material value, but as the expression of the primordial order.  Gold was the resplendent power of the sun, the masculine active principle of creation, and silver was the resplendence of the moon, the feminine principle. 
The Spanish considered the Indians to be non-human.
I found everyone in Lima to be very dear and welcoming.  I liked Lima tremendously and hope I can return one day to venture further into the Incan lands to the wonder of Machu Picchu.
   
Manta, Equador  10 April
We arrived in Manta on Good Friday.  We heard there were going to be many processions, and early on, we came upon the beginning of one.  It was a street pageant at a large intersection with a cast of indigenous locals taking the parts in acting out the Passion.  I always choke up when I see this story, but here the feeling in my heart had more to do with the sweetness of these stunted people and their condition. We arrived to find a large contingent of the Roman Army at attention as Jesus was on trial before a rather hysterically overacting Pontius Pilate.  Next to him stood the High Priest of the
Jews dressed in the costume of a Catholic Bishop.  As one glimpses a truth under a slip of the tongue, I saw through this Passion into the gross sacrifice of Jesus by this manifestation of the Anti-Christ, the Crown and the Catholic Church.  On one level the crucifixion perpetuates the ancient human sacrifice which Europeans cannot countenance, but which was their way of communion. On a deeper level the natives were obeying the mandate to be Christian, but the true nature of their plight was slipping out at the seams.  They repeat the Passion as victims of trauma exhibit repetition compulsion.
This awareness is beginning to color the whole trip for me, so I agreed to leave the scene and carry on with our plan to have Miguel drive us out to a National Preserve.
We drove down the coast of this equatorial country, grateful for the air conditioning of our little taxi, to a charming preserve of a temperate rainforest.  The place was swarming with people from our ship.  A guide took us on a walking tour through the heat looking at many bizarre flora and fauna in landscape that looked a great deal like California.  We came to a small lake that had a noxious sulphuric odor and were told that it was fed by a hot spring.  Lots of little families were playing in it and sitting by the sides.  We were invited to enter, but hurried on.  Ram later remarked that he felt depressed by the small lives of the people.  I could see that the whole thing was getting to him as well.
On the way to the Preserve, we had passed a large and highly unlikely sign of a Yin Yang symbol.  Across from it was a large gate with NIRVANA written above it.  On our return we stopped and drove in.  We wound up a hill and came to a group of buildings.  A younger man came out and greeted us.  He seemed larger than the others. In Spanish he explained to me that he is a student of philosophy and had built this retreat on a promontory over the sea where he lived alone.  His extended family was visiting for a Good Friday feast, but he left them to show us around.  He took us to his favorite place at the top of the rough wooden structure, two rooms entirely open to the sea.  The breeze was exquisitely refreshing in the dry heat.  This was his library and meditation space.  He had a lovely vibe.  I told him that I was one of many spiritual cousins from this same coast way to the north on the other side of the equator, who congregate in a place called Big Sur.  They live just like this, with the same rustic way of stepping out of society and contemplating the greatness of the primordial Pacific and all that it represents.  Our visit with him was the jewel of our short visit to Equador.

My Mini Mutiny
The scourge of cruises is the outbreak of collective illness.  As we were approaching the equator, it was announced that the ship is on a red alert, because some people are turning up with “GI Illness”, a viral infection featuring diarrhea and vomiting.  In red alert, many things change. They close down the hot tubs, a minor disaster for those of us from Marin. You are asked not to touch others, even shake hands. Small dispensers of Purex are everywhere and you must use them frequently.  All the food is served, even in the cafeteria, and you cannot touch any utensils used by others.  If you get ill you are quarantined in your room.
That morning I had Diarrhea, but no nausea. We certainly did not want to be stuck in our cabin, especially since we were one day from Costa Rica, where we had scheduled an elaborate nature tour, the one trip we planned at considerable expense before we left. In all my travels I have certainly learned to deal with a bit of the runs. So, we didn’t tell anyone. I got real careful and used lots of Lomotil until it cleared up. 

Puertarenas, Costa Rica   Easter, 12 April
Costa Rica is a tiny country at the center of the Central American isthmus. Here, locals say “Pura Vida” to express everything from hello to goodbye and practically everything in between.  It is rather like the ever-sunny Hawaiian “Aloha”, but you can vary its mood by the expression on your face.
Pura Vida means “pure life”, and this is the thematic beauty of this country, its upward aspiration to ecological correctness and the reason that several friends in the States are buying property down here to resettle.
Costa Rica is as complex and diverse as any place of its size on earth. Evidence of the enlightened governance of President Oscar Arias is everywhere. There are great stretches of road that are uninterrupted nature, no road signs, and a booming tourist industry based on a concept originated here, ecotourism. 
I would like to have been in a town to participate in a real Easter celebration, to see how they do resurrection.  However, we had arranged to see the spectacular nature of Costa Rica before we realized it would be Easter. We first went on a boat through lagoons and along a river to the mouth of the sea.  The shores are lined with Mangroves, coastal trees which are wonderfully bi, having some features that relate to salt water and others that relate to fresh water.  Hiding among their spidery roots were many crocodiles, large and small, their grey color blending brilliantly with the shore.  We saw pelicans, turtles, sandpipers, egrets, spoonbills, flamingoes.  This was an Easter for St Francis, my favorite Christian.  Not too sure, however if he would have approved of our one glimpse of the Resurrected One this morning, a lizard, which, because it can walk on water, is referred to as the Jesus Christ Lizard.
We then went to another park in which we walked through a forest of herb and spice trees and gawked at spectacular varieties of snakes in cages.  We finished with a gondola ride through the canopy of the rainforest in which most of the wildlife thrives—tukan, owls, macaws, huge termite nests, and sloths.  I would have loved to do this in silence, but the chatter of the other tourists deafened the great primordial peace.  Pura Vida.

Holy Week
This holy time has been underscored in each place by the presence and sometimes the absence of churches, processions, and celebrations.
In this I have experienced a gathering awareness of how the oppressed have made Christianity their very own. Some of the statues — I saw a Jesus and Mary — are dark-skinned and sometimes even black.
From studying the history of dictatorship and the power of the Catholic Church I have been flooded with the evidence that the lust for power is the antichrist.  All the power of the church has been the ongoing crucifixion of these peoples and their culture. 
Clearly there are levels to this.  One is that much of the indigenous mythology found its way into the Christian mythological structure, so that at various locations, the indigenous roots are actually still the active element.  I knew this before I came, but now I see clearly that on another level Christianity turned into their emotional way of dealing with the holocaust of the colonial process.  The hidden story is their torture and crucifixion at the hands of colonialism, but, as I am now discovering, there is no resurrection.
Ram is incensed.  How can they have taken on this religion when it justified their own cultural annihilation?
The answer is not only that it was, like everything else, forced upon them, but also that, as an emotional survival mechanism, they were able to take on the religion that justified their own crucifixion, by preempting it to express the tortured and broken heart of their collective tragedy.
Is my own well-being somehow tied up with Latin American misery?
In college I learned about the behavior of the White Man towards the world since the Renaissance, entitled as he was by the One True Religion and energized by naked greed. Ever since, I have wondered how, in the greater justice that Asians call the laws of Karma, we will s
ome day have to pay.

The Ship
Meanwhile, I take refuge from this growing awareness in the multi-star comfort of life on this great ship.  We have been aboard for almost four weeks now.  We take almost every meal in a four star restaurant, where dear Indonesians in smart uniforms place a napkin in my lap and, speaking Indonesian with me, serve my every royal whim.  Many of the dinners are formal occasions in which Ram and I get all dolled up in tuxedos. I fear I am forgetting how to place my own napkin!!?
Nevertheless, it seems that an angel is guiding this journey.  The weather, notoriously variable in this season, has been miraculously exquisite, sometimes turning terrible just as we sailed out of the ports.  One ship behind us had to return to a prior port because of the storms.
Added to this is my own personal guiding angel, who, all my life, has allowed small disasters — enough to teach me to wake up — but lovingly, miraculously saved me from real disaster.

Now we are heading for Mexico.
 
Mexico
On this trip we have been shadowed by President Obama.
When we were in Brazil, President Lula was in Washington meeting with Obama, establishing the communalities between them, tempered as they are by the deep commonality of their early experiences among the underprivileged.
Now, as we sailed up into Mexico, Obama was arriving in Mexico City and continuing on to meet with Latin American leaders from around the Caribbean.  Wherever he goes, a great sigh of relief is heard by the world leadership as he puts forth his respectful hand of intelligent goodwill.  I can barely contain the relief and joy I feel at having a leader who earns my respect at every turn.

Confronting Prejudice
I have always dismissed Mexico as the hot slum to the south. Whenever I have turned my eyes, so intoxicated by Asia and Europe, to south of the border, I was instinctively put off by its messy mediocrity.   From time to time I venture there hoping for a new impression.  A few years ago, a number of my friends took refuge from the Bush years in tony San Miguel de Allende.  I visited there over New Years in ’07, but I came away with the impression — bluntly uttered by a friend – of a shantytown with a few beautiful buildings at the center. 
Then I read a real page-turner, Aztec, by Gary Jennings, which introduced me to the Mexica, the brilliant and sophisticated peoples of the Aztec Empire. With a few strokes, the greedy Spanish destroyed all that was great and noble, interbreeding with the lowly peasants who survived, leaving only a chaotic cultural mediocrity robbed of its soul.  I didn’t want to have any part of this, not when there was ageless India and pristine Bali, where the religions and temples of the ancients still thrive.  What would Latin America be if we could still visit the dazzling Aztec capitol of Tenochtitlan or the thriving Incan capitol, Cuzco? 
I feel anxious as our ship heads towards Mexico, wondering if my new experience of the great continent below will change this old prejudice.

Puerto Chiapas, 14 April, 2009
In its effort to encourage tourism, Mexico is promoting new destinations in the south of the country. They are getting more sophisticated about how to do it all. 
Our first stop was just north of the border, Puerto Chiapas, which offered a suggestive contact with mystic, exotic and natural worlds. Our arrival was a local event, especially cheerful and charming, as most of the ports have greeted us with piles of packing crates. Dancers in ancient costumes performed for us, and then came more traditional dances and singing as we disembarked. The port itself, dominated by two great palapa pyramids, was beautiful.  One of these held a restaurant and pool, and the other, a hall of high quality shops and tourist facilities surrounding a sunken stage where local performers, largely school kids, danced and sang all day.  Everything seemed fresh and fun. 
My old friend Leo Gabriel, passionate activist on the Latin American scene whose suggestions have often guided me on this trip, told me that the indigenous people of the State of Chiapas are politically very active.  I wondered if this innocent loveliness was a result of indigenous efforts to present themselves as hosts.  If so, it was very impressive.  Everybody was friendly and enthusiastic. It was wonderfully uplifting to feel genuinely welcomed.
Our guide was a very attractive Belgian who has married a local. Everything we saw seemed impeccably clean and very well kept. She took us first to visit the ruins of Izapa; a city of proto-Mayans, where scholars believe the Mayan calendar was developed.  As the guide explained how this calendar was reckoned and presented in relation to the ruined structures, I was again amazed at the heights of culture achieved by these people, and how tragic it was that they were not respected and supported by the invaders, as was the case with many colonists in Asia.  Destroying their culture for European wealth may have had short term gains, but is ultimately the White Man’s great loss.
Then we went to visit the town of Tapachula.  The large square in the center, with its exuberant central fountain, was thriving with local life, and we spent some time engaging with it and relishing its vitality.  At one point an older woman came forward clutching the hand of a little child with bright inquisitive eyes. The woman explained in Spanish that her granddaughter was learning English and wanted to speak with me.  But when I squatted down, the challenge was simply too great, and the child was incapable of uttering a word. My heart went out to her, as that panic is what I feel every time I start to speak Spanish.  To learn a language takes ordinary courage, but great amounts of it.

Huatulco, Oaxaca, 15 April
The State of Oaxaca is only 150 miles from the capitol, but separated by sparsely populated mountains, so it has a destiny of it own, a sunny slow existence and a magical quality largely due to its remoteness, dry rocky landscape illuminated by bright southern light and large indigenous population.
We put into Santa Cruz, another cruise port.  It was a school holiday however, and many locals were there to enjoy the picturesque little town and its beach facilities.
The shore is lined with bays and small private beaches.  We decided to rent a motor scooter and head off to one of these.  A Dutch friend saw us getting on and warned us about riding where there is sand, which was good, because very soon we took a small road off the main highway, and, sure enough, we did skid and turn over.  Once again, the guardian angel protected us from any serious injury, but our enthusiasm was dampened.  We found a lovely little bay with a river running into it.  There was one small boutique hotel where we rented beach chairs and umbrellas.  I wanted to get some serious reading done.

During the trip I have been reading two books.  During the first part of the trip I read an academic History of Latin America, very objective and British, relating everything in laborious detail, far more than my aging mind could contain.  Yet I couldn’t seem to skip over anything, and I just tried to retain the dynamic elements and general trends, because however the details vary in all the countries of Latin America, the patterns have been largely the same.
Since crossing the equator I was reading the second book recommended by Leo.  This book, written by Eduardo Galeano, a Uruguayan journalist, is passionately poetic, but with immaculate economic and historical scholarship. It goes over the same history, but framed as the rape of Latin America.  So far, I had covered the capture, slaughter, and enslavement of native civilizations; the colonization by Spanish crown and church; independence and the rise of oligarchic powers led by charismatic caudillos who combined and recombined in dictatorial gover
nments serving the great minorities and the mercantile empires, particularly Britain. 
I was now beginning to read about the 20th C in which there was a new system of exploitation, the international corporations, mostly North American owned, and their continuing drainage of wealth, all influenced by my own government’s covert support of cooperative dictators, no matter how violent their methods. After Cuba went communist, any real attempts on the part of local governments to truly serve the people, labeled “tendencies towards communism”, were violently and mercilessly suppressed.
At one point, one of the ship’s lecturers, who I befriended, showed the movie Missing, which exposes the covert operations of American secret agents, who basically enabled Pinochet to overcome the long running democracy of Chile.  In the early Seventies, a young, hip American disappears in Santiago.  When his father, wonderfully rendered by Jack Lemon, comes to investigate, he gets the runaround.  It finally becomes clear that the son had stumbled onto the American complicity in the coup and has been murdered.  The horrified father confronts the American Ambassador, who, pressed into admission, says, “You sit complacently in your comfort and luxury in Westchester County and have no idea what your government has to do to maintain that for you.”  This is the nub of the problem.  The poor suffer so that I can achieve regal comfort on this ship, along with all these others who haven’t a clue as to what they are seeing.  I was getting a glimpse.  Yes, the Continent is stupendous, but the poor majority of Latin America are victims of their own natural wealth!
As we sat in our cushy white lounge chairs, I read a great deal of this part of the book.  With poetic passion it powerfully dramatizes this modern Latin American drama, creating a radical sense of injustice of almost epic proportions.  I felt like I was drowning in something that no one where I come from could comprehend.  How could I relate this?!
When we returned from our slightly perilous motor scooter adventure to the little town constructed for tourists, I was in a kind of daze. Everywhere one sees the visible needs of the poor.  Almost every person with brown skin is trying to get something from me. 
Suddenly, the revulsion at their need was coming over me in a kind of psychic nausea; underneath, the sickness of heart at my European heritage, my country, my race.  Everywhere, in all the restaurants, the aggressive merchants, the beggars – all was becoming a nightmare of needy outstretched hands for which my kind and I are responsible!
I stumbled aboard the ship.  Blinded from the brilliance of the sun and the sudden darkness, I wandered in a daze towards our stateroom, when suddenly CLUNK…pain, stars.  I had run into a post and cracked my brow.  I put my hand to the wound and saw blood.  Ram hurried me to our stateroom. The skin was not much broken, but my brow was already swelling.  We put some ice in a washrag, and put it over the wound.  I lay down. 
Reality is trying to make a point, but how to assimilate this when I cannot even accept it and up to now have never been able to look at it.  I fell asleep… Miranda Richardson had just died of a head wound…I might not wake up…
But once again, my guardian angel protected me from anything but an ugly bump and a slightly blackened eye.
At formal dinner that night, my run-in with the post was the cause of considerable hilarity.

Acapulco, 16 April
I expected Acapulco, the original Pacific resort, to be the slum of tourism, but the harbor itself, with the Sierra Madre Mountains behind, ranks with Rio and San Francisco. A tour of the city was completely delightful, though in the intense high rises and overbuilt hills, I could see the object lesson which is causing the very different approach to tourism we witnessed in the South.
We gawked at the obligatory divers at La Quebrada who plunge artfully 143 ft into the sea. The surrounding neighborhood began to look suspiciously like the Hollywood Hills. The place I most enjoyed was the dark pink Los Flamingos Hotel with a spectacular overlook. In 1954 a gang, including Cary Grant, John Wayne, and Johnny Weissmuller (who filmed his Tarzan movies nearby), took it over as a private hangout for their buddies. One could see the glamorous life of the good old days of Acapulco.
Just beside our port was the 17th C San Diego Fort, which protected the bay from pirates and invaders.  It is now an elegant museum relating the colonial life of the area, displaying artfully a relatively few items with videos showing their context.
It was Thursday.  I had read that on that day in Acapulco there is always a fiesta around Poyole, an indigenous hominy and chicken soup concoction with sides that can be added at will.  Beneath the Fort, just across the street from our Port, was a restaurant with a kind of upper fiesta room.  We went up there in the late afternoon just before we were due back.  There were no tourists.  The waiter served up our Poyole, and two shy girls seated next to us showed us how to prepare it.  A show was gearing up as whole families were coming in.  The female MC was pretty hefty, and, not accustomed to seeing drag in the afternoon, I asked the girls, “Hombre?” “Si”, they answered, giggling.  Then two pairs of young dancers came out and muchachaed in decorous sexuality, vigorously exposing a lot, including our Northern Protestant sensibilities.  With all the children running around, we could hardly believe our eyes. A sweet German friend who was with us said, “This is quite suggestive.”  “No” I said, “its explicit!”  I was very disappointed that we had to leave a local scene so alive and not staged for tourists.  I told the girls we would wave to them as we pulled out, which we did.
Leaving a harbor as the sun is setting is always my favorite part. 

Cabo San Lucas,  18 April
Our final stop in Mexico was Cabo San Lucas, at the tip of the Baja Peninsula.  Pirates were the first to escape here, but this has now become another new tourist escape.  It has its own style of post-modernist architecture, which from a distance looks rather like cave dwellings in Turkey or towns seen from the distance in the African Desert.  Up close, it was frantically touristic.
With some friends we took a glass-bottomed boat out to a beach with spectacular rock formations, even a natural arch, the signature of the place, where the Bay and the Pacific come together in a sparkling dance.  Lots of little isolated coves give the place the name, Lovers Beach. I was going to snorkel, but because of the wound on my brow, I could not put on the mask.
Then we were taken back to the hotel beach front, which, being a Saturday was pretty busy. We got the best deal on shaded lounge chairs, and I threw myself into trying to finish the book.  Thus sensitized, the whole disjointed social structure was prominently displayed right there before me.  Gross and sunburned tourists waited on by brown people fawning and jockeying for their business, innerly resentful, and scolding rudely another strata at the edges held away by ropes, hawkers, many of them children, laden with trinkets nobody needs, begging us to buy.
I was finding it harder and harder to be there, every interaction colored by what I was reading. In the confused faces of children, I keep seeing the shadow of exploitation — walking back to the port, a beggar here and there clutching an infant, imploring.
After all my years of traveling and living in post-colonial countries, I still freeze when confronted by a beggar. I have really worked at trying to deal with this.  Now this mystery is clarified.  I am frozen because I am confronted with the enormity of the economic difference between us and how, as a White Man, I am somehow responsible for this.  By cosmic rights, I should just g
ive the beggar everything I have and take my place beside her.
I was relieved to get back to the ship and to be leaving this spectacle, with its outer and inner resonance.  I simply can’t cope with it, though maybe that raw recognition itself is what is needed.

Epiphany Now
Part of my discomfort was that I did not know how I could express or share the deep pain of my impressions, fed and shaped by this book.  My ability to communicate it to any North American seems impossible.  I feel almost smothered by this.
And yet there is a new context: our unbridled capitalistic imperialism is in the process of collapsing under its own contradictions, mimicking in some ways the process by which communism collapsed twenty years ago.
Obama was now making his first visit to Mexico.  Hugo Chavez, the clown of a new wave of Latin American leadership dedicated to redressing the ills of exploitation, stretched out his hand in friendship.  The big CNN video-op was the “brother” handshake of these two brown men and Chavez’ conspicuous gift of the book which immediately became an Amazon bestseller, The Open Veins of Latin America, THE book I have been reading!
If our president truly reads this book, and with his experience of the other side of economic reality, is able to alter the course of our great luxury cruiser of state, things may be very different…

San Diego, California, April 20
RICH RICH RICH! This is what screamed at me as we pulled into the harbor of San Diego.  Everything is bright, new, big, sparkling, and taken for granted.  It felt very good to be home in my own State.
I spent most of the day with Ed Maupin who has also been in Arica for almost 40 years.  He is the Rolfer Emeritus.  Since the School is in effect a mysticism of the body, members help each other to be well in our bodies.  Ed told me I do not walk correctly and proceeded to spend several hours teaching me how to walk from my pelvis and working hands-on to realign the musculature by which I walk.  The fact that I was having to learn to walk a new way from the center seemed rhetorically appropriate at the end of this trip.
Maybe we all have to learn how to walk in a new way.

One word heard often in the recent dialogue between the American leaders, especially uttered frequently by Obama in his call for a new era, is “respect”.  Respect is a kind of dull cliché, but it has profound meaning, and, I think will be the critical new element.  Respect means honoring the land, the ancient culture and its wisdom, but mostly supporting the right of sovereign nations to act for the well being of ALL of its people.  If democracy is real, it must raise itself to the international level where each nation has the intrinsic right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  A policy of true respect will discourage the exploitation by the rich and will revolutionize the way Latin America works. If, as we profess, democracy really works, this respect will benefit everyone in the end, not just the entitled. 
Instead of the hypocritical strutting of our corporate imperialism, this would be a new way of walking from the center that matches our talk.

The Ship
My first impression that the ship was a floating Midwestern retirement community, has passed.  Many of my friends here are from other countries.  In fact, the Amsterdam is a United Nations in its own right, with passengers and staff from many different countries and every major religion of the world.  Appropriately, it is run by the Dutch and owned by the Americans, and I wonder if there are secret negotiations to sell it to China.

The Last Day at Sea
The sea is wild today as we sail for two days from San Diego towards Victoria, British Columbia. The ship passes about forty miles from our home in Marin.  Coats, hats, and long underwear are out once again. I have loved the way we have gone from tropical Rio to wild and cold Cape Horn, slowly made our way up to heat and humidity at the equator and now are heading back up north into the cold.  A terrestrial planetary experience.
Again, a great angel guides us.  Not only has the weather held and been beautiful to the very last day of the trip, but we pulled out of Mexico just when the first cases of Swine Flu were appearing there, and then the earthquake happened close to Acapulco.  My own overworked personal angel kept me from getting the GI illness, which became an epidemic towards the end of the journey.  It was so bad that we could not take on the 160 new passengers in San Diego who had signed on for a final four day cruise.
We have been on the ship for almost six weeks.  We have visited eleven countries and twenty cities.  It has been amazing to live on this grand home moving across the seas, an extraordinary experience in its own right, above and beyond the places we have seen.
It was a gracious way of life, but in its own way a kind of ghetto in which there was great poverty of raw experience.  One sensitive gentleman we met said the only thing authentic about the whole voyage was looking over the rail watching the sea pass as the great ship does its thing.  Indeed, most of life in the prison of the comfort zone is superficial and meaningless, but the real has been a relationship with the sea, the awesome oceanic surface of Earth.

Victoria, Canada  23 April 2009
Our last stop had an elegant irony with our visit to Victoria, gracious city, honoring the Queen of Empire, but looking rather as though it has been finished off by Disney.
This being Spring, our visit to the famous Butchart Gardens ended our sightseeing with an exuberant exclamation point! To me, experiencing their awesome crafted beauty made the point that the dream of the White Man is that order imposed on nature produces the greatest well being and aesthetic.

Before they were conquered and enslaved, Indians knew how to work with nature; how to gear themselves to it, draw order out of it, and thus provide for their real needs. They did not know the wheel, the horse or iron, but brilliant land and water management were made possible by prodigious organization and technical perfection achieved through wise distribution of labor as well as by the religious force that ruled their relationship to the earth—which was sacred and thus always alive.
The monotheistic invaders destroyed this heathen order, and sucked the blood of the open veins of the earth, conceiving of the natural wealth of South America as raw material for the riches of the White Man.  Their dream, embodied in these Gardens, did not extend to the Southern hemisphere.
We have destroyed this animistic order and victimized the people for their own intrinsic wealth. 
This fundamental disposition towards nature, with all its attendant excesses, has produced a super culture, which has despoiled the natural planetary home and may well, in the greater karmic balance of things, commit suicide.  Either that or the ancient genius will have to be revived out of indigenous Earth consciousness to save us.

On 24 April 2009, after 40 days and 40 nights, we disembarked in Seattle at 9:30 AM.

What If Jesus Never Existed?


The
new atheism assaults the excesses of religious zeal, which in our time have become a destructive force.  In its convincing proof that Jesus never existed and its gleeful rush towards liberation, however, the new atheism overlooks entirely the existential root of Christianity, which is truer than the facts.

The Contents of This Essay

1. Did Jesus Exist?
The New Information Questioning and Denying His Existence.
How and Why Does It Matter?
Historical Fact as the Criterion of Truth
Does It Really Matter?

2. Does Christ Really Exist?
Comprehending the Knower
    Psychology and Ontology
    Contemplation
Hidden Factors: Gnosis
    1. Mythic Symbolism and Its Use in Faith
    2. The Experience of Death and Resurrection
    3. The Message in the New Testament
The Truth of Love, the Divine State of Compassion

3. Jesus Christ:  A Likely Story

4. The Value of Anti-Religious Thought

    
What if Jesus Never Existed?

In a recent documentary, The God Who Was Not There, former fundamentalist, Brian Flemming, starts out by reminding us that the folks who expect us to believe the truth of Jesus Christ were the same folks that enforced the ‘truth’ that the sun revolves around the earth by putting to death anyone who suggested that the earth revolves around the sun.  This disposition towards truth creates deep distrust.  In the name of faith, belief co-opts fact.  The world is becoming all too aware of this sleight of hand.  I have heard the traditional holiday greetings given as “Merry Hoodwink” and Easter as “Happy Hogwash.”

Flemming’s documentary and another which appeared recently, called Zeitgeist, as well as books and websites gather evidence that the Biblical story of Jesus Christ was no more than the equivalent of an “urban legend” woven together of mythic themes current in first century Mediterranean culture.

The case against Jesus contributes to a wave of anti-religious thinking, known as “anti-theism” or “the new atheism” that is growing in importance and gaining louder and louder voices.  Bill Maher’s film, Religulous, adds to this chorus.  They all have an important message. In their zealotry Christians (and other theists) are deluded into forms of behavior that are dysfunctional in the twenty first century, as is all fundamentalism, and are distracted from seeing the manipulation of power in history hidden behind their gentle man of Galilee. 

In their attack on the “religulous,” all the films and sites present very convincing evidence that Christian believers have little or nothing upon which to base their faith.

1. Did Jesus Exist?   

History is the contemporary, scientifically oriented study of the past.  By any of its criteria, the story of Jesus Christ cannot be said to have the same historical verisimilitude as, say, the accounts of Caesar Augustus. There were Roman historians of the time who recorded events after the crucifixion.  Josephus, who writes of the early Christian community in Jerusalem in the first century AD, refers to “Jesus who was called Messiah.” (Antiquities of the Jews, XX: 9, para. 200)  In about 115 AD Tacitus the Roman Historian identifies the leader of a new cult:  “Christ, from whom they derive their name, was condemned to death by the procurator Pontius Pilate in the reign of the Emperor Tiberius.” (Annals. XV: 44)   Scholars regard these as more or less historically accurate by modern standards, but these ancients only make reference to such a person. There are no recorded historical facts about his life.  All accounts that believers rely upon were generated by faithful followers many years after Jesus’ death, hardly the objective and dispassionate observers modern historians rely upon for our understanding of the past.  Indeed, the history of the Bible, now well established through careful scholarship, presents an interesting picture.

Let us look more closely at the evidence. The first factor proceeds from this problematic lack of contemporary accounts of Jesus’ life, even by his followers.  Using many ingenious techniques, contemporary scholars have put together a chronology of events, including the creation of the Bible itself, in the first century.  Jesus purportedly departed the earth in 33 AD, but the earliest gospels, the only documents that relate the events of Jesus’ life, were not written until at least fifty years later.  Paul, who began his letters soon after the demise of Jesus and wrote them before the composition of the gospels, never mentions any of the events of Jesus’ life other than the crucifixion and resurrection.  The first account to appear, The Gospel of Mark, was not written until the eighties. Moreover, the author was not writing history, but a spiritual message whose elements were taken liberally from the folklore that gathered around Jesus’ followers.
   
This “folklore” is the second factor.  The miraculous aspects of the story of Jesus Christ include the following: the immaculate conception, the star at the birth, the slaying of the innocents, the brilliant childhood, the many miracles performed, as well as the crucifixion and resurrection.  These are the staples of Christian belief, but they are identical to the stories of other heroes of Hellenistic and Roman mythologies of the time.  Each theme appears in the stories of deities predating or contemporary with early Christianity: Mithros, Attis, Adonis, Osiris, Tamuz and Dionysos, to name just a few.  In a book called The Hero, Lord Raglan took the myth of Oedipus as a standard and divided it into twenty-two elements.  Then he scored each story of a divine hero current in the Hellenistic period, including those mentioned above. Of the heroes studied, Jesus ranked third highest, after Theseus and Oedipus, with nineteen out of the twenty-two elements in common with the myth of Oedipus. It takes an act of intellectual violence to say that either these other heroes did not exist or that they are copies of Christian themes, which is absurd because they all predate the gospels. These themes were the conventions of the divine heroes of the time. They were urban legends, which, just as the urban legends of our own time, bear no responsibility to fact or historical truth.

There are numerous other factors, easily proven through history or anthropology that effectively invalidate the historical verisimilitude of the story of Jesus. Therefore from the point of view of objective history it is just as likely that Jesus did not exist as that he did.  The story upon which Christian faith is based is nothing but a likely story.

There is something gleeful about these debunking accounts, something of naughty children getting the better of the grownups.  On the adult side, they purport to be liberating, in the same way that Galileo was freeing science from belief. 

How and Why Does It Matter?

Christian believers base their faith on the historical facticity of Jesus.  His miraculous provenance, nature, and resurrection, retold in the events of the New Testament, form the basis of their faith.  The truth of his historical existence is the justification upon which the Christian Religion is based. There are dark rumors that actual contravening evidence exists deep in the forbidden vaults of the Vatican, hidden away forever, because such indisputable evidence would eliminate the very foundations of the church.  I
f somewhere along the line, someone were able to prove that the fundamentals of Christian faith based in historical truth were in fact false, it would eliminate the authority of the church and throw the community of believers into a turmoil that might be catastrophic to Western Civilization.  There are several works of fiction that depict such an eventuality.

Historical Fact as the Criteria of Truth

In fact this campaign to validate the historical existence of Jesus Christ has been active for the last two centuries.  Attempts to use historical rather than traditional religious methods to construct a verifiable biography of Jesus began in the 18th century with Hermann Samuel Reimarus, up to William Wrede and Albert Schweitzer in the 19th century. Although Schweitzer was among the greatest contributors to this quest, he also ended by noting very astutely how each scholar’s version of Jesus seemed little more than an idealized autobiography of the scholar himself!  A later generation of scholars emphasized the “constraints of history,” so that despite uncertainties, there were historical data that were usable. Yet another generation tended to focus on the early textual layers of the New Testament for data to reconstruct a biography for the historical Jesus. The theme of the existence of Jesus has also been dealt with in fiction.  Dostoevsky’s famous story, The Grand Inquisitor, shows that the church has its own agenda for keeping moral and spiritual order, which has nothing to do with Jesus or his historical existence.

The fact is that religion blurs the line between fact and belief.  “Sinners go to hell.” is different from “There are white corpuscles in the blood.”  But not for believers. This was the issue with Copernicus and the Roman Church.  The campaign against Christian beliefs began with the coming of reason as the criterion of truth over faith in the 18th century.  It gathered force with the development of science, with its criteria for empirical truth, and its transference of these criteria onto the systematic study of the past, which we understand as history. History is the science of the past.  It deals in facts. These criteria came into being over the last two hundred and fifty years and barely existed before that time.

It is also important to understand that this “historical consciousness,” understanding history as past facts, is not a given of human civilization. Nor is it a universal criterion of truth.  It did not exist in Asia.  Even today, what non-westernized Asians understand to be “history” is what we call mythology.   History is the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, the great Indian epics.  Only Westernized Asians worry about anything else.  This is undoubtedly closer to the mentality of Mediterranean civilization at the time the New Testament was written.

In reaction to these challenges over the last two centuries Christian believers, who also live in this time of historical consciousness, fiercely defend the historical veracity of the Bible as the legitimate basis of their social and political views.  Many find this oppressive.  The relish with which the new atheism refutes these accounts expresses a reaction against societal pressure to believe something that your basic intelligence suspects to be factually false, as was the case during the time when faith was based on the earth as the center of the universe.

It seems to me that it is most likely that an extraordinary person such as Jesus did exist, but that the mythology that grew up around him after his death fits not historical actuality, but the heroic themes predominant at the time in the Middle East.  In their efforts to convey a “spiritual truth” the authors of the gospels tended to make the accounts of his life a kind of composite of all the current heroes and gods.  This is entirely possible, indeed probable, and with understanding, completely excusable.

Does It Really Matter?

Let us go to a deeper question.  Suppose it were possible to prove that the historical Jesus did not exist.  For those whose faith is based on the historical truth of the miraculous events of the Bible this would be disastrous.  For those who set forward this contravening evidence, it is a great relief, as when the Copernican universe was finally accepted and science was freed from its shackles.

But is there a baby here that is getting thrown out with the baptismal water?

That water may be the belief in the historical truth of Jesus, which has been the kingpin of Christian entitlement in the world — to theocracy, religious dictatorship, ideological crusades, and the colonial right to overwhelm and eradicate other cultures.  This same pernicious entitlement supports the tendency of Christian fundamentalism to contradict other fundamentalists, feeding a clash of unilateralist belief systems that is pulling the world apart. 

But what is the baby?  

2. Does Christ Really Exist?

The real question is; what kind of truth do we find in the New Testament?  What is the vaguely acknowledged “spiritual message” that the authors of the gospels and indeed Paul were seeking to convey?   Therefore, what is the real basis of Christian truth?  Who is Christ?

It is important to understand that if Jesus of Nazareth did exist, he was a man and a teacher. Christ is the Greek term conferred upon him subsequently to designate the divine state of being which he is believed to have embodied.  This state is the fundamental human potential, hence “divine”.  This was the teaching.

What is experienced as the truth of Christ is so distant from any kind of intellectually generated understanding or factual account that, in our day and age when these things have primary value, it can only be called “the mystery”.

We know nothing of mystery. We have very crude conceptual language to attempt to describe what the truth behind the mystery would be. The strength of our current knowledge centers on scientific and historical fact, but our great weakness as a culture is our lack of understanding of the fundamental nature of consciousness. This is the real paucity of our time and the reason that Christians have displaced their justification for faith onto historical and scientific forms of knowledge.  We know the known; we are in fact obsessed with the known: but we are deeply ignorant of the knower.  The Christian truth, as is the truth of all great religion, is in the understanding of the knower.

Comprehending the Knower

To understand the knower is the key to the mystery.  While the empirical scientific model for the study of objective phenomena has dominated the Western intellect in the last three centuries, there has been a lesser tendency to look into the nature of the knower, primarily in psychology, ontology and to some extent, in anthropology.

Psychology suffers from the fact that it seeks to treat the fundamental and universal consciousness or “psyche” as an object of scientific study.  Therefore experimental psychology, with its empirical orthodoxy, is a very clunky endeavor indeed, a blunt instrument for understanding the knower, and useless in comprehending the lived subtleties of existence.  In the case of clinical experience and theory, psychotherapy has yielded productive methods for treating pathologies.  In the work of C.G. Jung and his followers, there is penetrating insight into the way that myth and dream symbolism originate and function.  This has been supported by the very sympathetic approach to universal psychology available through the anthropological study of other cultures and cross-cultural phenomena.

Ontology, which questions the suppositions of our suppositions about what- is, or Being, has been the deepest of all studies in the West, but as it reached closer t
o the subtle truths of the knower, it became so obscure that it is almost incomprehensible, as anyone who has attempted to read the works of Martin Heidegger can attest.  The enquiry into the fundamental nature of Being, or Foundational Ontology, started with Edmund Husserl and his development of phenomenology, which initiated a systematic approach to a vital skill utterly lost to the West, rooted as it has become, in empiricism.  Taking the cue from phenomenology, Heidegger ultimately attempted to reinstate the place of direct observation of consciousness, or contemplation as the true path towards an authentic understanding of the nature of Being.  Empiricism is direct experience and objective evaluation of the known: contemplation is direct experience and objective evaluation of the knower.  

The greatest master of contemplation was Gautam Buddha. In the last fifty years, the increasingly sophisticated understanding of the contemplative traditions of Asia and the esoteric traditions in the West has begun to free up westerners from the myopia of empirical thinking, to allow them to understand the nature of contemplation, and finally to actually practice it. As practice proceeds, the nature of the knower begins to reveal itself and the mystery of Christ becomes genuinely available once again.

The understanding of the functioning of the psyche obviates the need to engage in the misguided and losing battle for the historical veracity of Jesus. But contemplation is even more deep and appropriate to resolving the issues surrounding the historical validity of Jesus as a justification of faith.  The practice of contemplation is observing consciousness itself.  There are different levels: direct observing in a deep state of concentration, such as perfected in the Zen Buddhist tradition; using divine imagery systematically as a lens through which to comprehend consciousness, as in deity yoga; using the focus and study of mythical imagery to realize the nature of consciousness, as in faith; to falling in love with images, as in devotion.

In the West, however, intellectual and academic endeavor encourages only factual understanding of the Bible and Christianity, and also a possible theoretical understanding of the truth of Christ. This intellectual understanding does not necessarily lead to the experience of Christ, the state which alone is the ultimate truth of Christ.  In the great poems of spiritual truth, the Upanishads, we find a summary evaluation of such theoretical pursuit: “Those who are in ignorance are in darkness, but those who think they know are in greater darkness still.”

Hidden Factors: Gnosis

But let us back up to the controversy surrounding the existence of Christ.  In the debunking books and films, there are hidden factors in the mystery overlooked in the blindness of our time.  Here are the clues and the questions they raise:
1. That the New Testament is full of mythic symbolism.  What is mythic symbolism?
2. The fact that the death and resurrection were not the facts but the expression of Paul’s experience. What was the nature of this experience?
3. “Mark was writing a spiritual message.” What was the message expressed by the events of Jesus’ life as related in the New Testament?

1. Mythic Symbolism and its Use in Faith

With the anthropological studies of the Middle East, which show that these themes are to be found as leitmotifs among the heroes of the various religions, we are halfway there.  Even more convincing is the fact that all great religious heroes of the world are described in similar ways.

Myth has two meanings.  The common meaning, and that of the debunkers, is basically, “made up and factually untrue”.  In this sense, to call the themes and events of Jesus’ life mythical means to dismiss them out of hand as mere inventions masquerading as facts.  The second meaning of myth is more useful: imagery used to express and evoke an otherwise inexpressible psychological or spiritual truth.

The genius of the human psyche is its capacity to express itself in symbols.  This is dream imagery.  As anyone who has undergone serious dream analysis in psychotherapy knows, at any one moment the psyche has the capacity to express its gestalt or fundamental circumstance in symbolic form. This is not an intellectual act, as is the creation of a metaphor: rather,  it is the generation of a truth that is not factual, but constitutive of present psychological truth.  Modern psychotherapists generally understand that psychological well-being has to do with the capacity to bring one’s dream into self-understanding.  Myth is collective dream and functions in the same way on a cultural level as dream on an individual level.  Jung and Campbell and their many followers have shown this.  To dismiss myth as non-factual is deeply wounding to our well-being.  Tending with awareness to our dream and the mythology of our culture are essential to optimal existence.

The imagery of Christian symbolism refers to a state of self-understanding or integral unity that is called gnosis.  Gnosis is basically esoteric in our culture, because it is not the knowledge of the known as is scientific and empirical knowledge, but what comes to be understood through the contemplation of the knower.

To say that the truth of Christ is ‘merely a state’ may seem an enormous comedown, compared to the epochal and miraculous events recounted in the New Testament and celebrated by Christians for centuries. But it is far more radical, intimate, and fundamental. This description as a ‘state’ reflects the words attributed to Jesus, that the kingdom of God is within.  Before we live in the world, we live in consciousness.  Before we live in a circumstance, a set of facts that we call the reality of the world, we live in states of being, either going upwards towards life affirmation or going downwards towards dissolution.  Living from the state of gnosis is optional consciousness. All the promises of the kingdom are figuratively present.  With gnosis, in the quiet depths of your being, you know who you are, why you are here, and where you are going.

That which the story of Jesus Christ was shaped to convey DOES exist, is truer than the facts, and is actually the very structure of existence. Gnosis is the truth beyond the facts and far more fundamental, and once experienced and assimilated, entirely eliminates the futile chase after historical verisimilitude.  

Myth is the vehicle of gnosis, the truth of consciousness.  Only by understanding the nature of myth can one understand the true nature of faith, the most productive form of contemplation in the Christian tradition.  Faith is not a hardened conviction that contrary to any evidence, beliefs are facts to be imposed on the world.  This is the will to power of the intellect.  Faith is rather a devoted and receptive tending to the imagery of the Christ story by entering a deep study of the Bible. This use of Biblical myth was the contemplative method set forth by St Francis.

Let us take the Immaculate Conception, both as an example of “tending myth” and demonstrating the way faith works.  The Virgin is chosen by God to conceive Christ through the Holy Spirit.  Existentially speaking, the Virgin is the central character in faith.  Forget whether she was historically a virgin or actually seeded by the Holy Spirit, and enter into a devoted and receptive awareness of “who” she is.  Her purity and innocence elegantly express the simple and open disposition, which alone is capable of bearin
g the child of gnosis. In this sense she is the only one capable of bearing Christ, she is “chosen”.  The chosen is the heart of contemplation, the polar opposite of calculation or theorizing.  She is an openness of heart on the part of the faithful, as opposed to a willful focus on the believed.  She is the opposite of the greed for power and intellectual computation.  This disposition of sublime receptivity to how things show themselves is the fundamental attitude of contemplation and phenomenology, absolutely essential to their practice.

The active element in the Conception is the Holy Spirit, the aspect of gnosis, which is an innate guide.  In the way of faith you so concentrate on the Virgin, that her disposition begins to overtake your way of being.  If with this attitude, you contemplate each event and character of the New Testament, the meaning comes clear. As the meaning reveals itself, gnosis grows within, comes to term and is born. To become the Virgin through your faith, you set up the circumstance by which the Holy Spirit can conceive gnosis within you.  Once the virginal aspect of your intellectual will opens to it with the disposition of the Virgin Mary, it guides. Together with the deep receptivity of the Virgin, the Holy Spirit conceives and gives birth to the child of gnosis. This is the authentic process of faith.  

2. The Death and Resurrection Were the Expression of Paul’s Experience.

Perhaps the most potent of all Biblical images is the death and resurrection.

No one doubts that Paul existed and that he lived at the time of Jesus, because his letters are full of actual accounting and communication. He personally interacted with many who had known Jesus.  If Jesus performed so many miracles, how could it be that Paul’s letters never recount any of the miraculous events of Jesus’ life?  But Paul was very aware of the crucifixion and purported resurrection, because up until his illumination on the road to Damascus, Paul (then Saul) was a government official who was dedicated to eliminating the Christian heresy.  Ironically, the fact that he was initially against the believers in the Resurrection may be the closest thing there is to valid contemporary evidence that Jesus existed.  But more important is the question as to the nature of Paul’s experience.

Under certain circumstances, gnosis overwhelms the psyche in such a way as to alter entirely one’s self-understanding.  What happened to Saul is called a reaction formation.  He was so fixated on one extreme position, that of denying the resurrection and eliminating its believers, that the opposite extreme completely overtook him and he had the experience of the resurrection by which he became Paul.

What Paul experienced, and spent the rest of his life urging upon the world, is the fact that the sudden arrival of gnosis, which he called the resurrection, creates a unique and distinct perspective that is authentic to the true nature of being.  Moreover, it is not just a passive reservoir of correct information, but is dynamic in its own right.  In the East one works toward enlightenment to enter the Light, but Paul’s experience demonstrates that the Light can also most forcefully make itself known, coming with blinding intensity and completely transforming ones being.  This overwhelming apotheosis of gnosis, often called Grace, is the existential fact of Christianity.

The result of this grace could be described as Love upon understanding, the existential experience of which we are calling gnosis.  What we call “love” is generally understood as a feeling or emotion, but Love is a substratum of our being, like the air. In gnosis the self-identity reverts to this substratum and becomes it. The result of gnosis is the state of Divine Compassion, the truth of Love.

What is this Love?  What the romantics and the pop songs call love is merely an echo, a clue. Heidegger showed how the fundamental disposition of consciousness is attraction, or care. Because our consciousness is grounded primordially in care, it surfaces in all our experiences of love to which we attribute particular significance, for instance in the way we value romance or friendship.  In gnosis care becomes transformed from an underlying disposition to an overt and prevailing force. For this reason Love, the basis of human existence, is a collective force, like a positive virus to which the rebellious human spirit is essentially vulnerable.  This Love is the “sword” of Christ, because in its presence, the significance of everything else evaporates.
 
When Love becomes this basic state, it becomes virtue.  When Jesus speaks of fulfilling the Law, what he means is that the Love upon gnosis obviates the laws of civilized behavior, morality and ethics.  Gnosis generates virtue  — compassion, patience, forgiveness, prudence, and internal balance — not as constraints that must be enforced through the authority of the church or the self-discipline of Christian morality, but as intuitively and existentially imperative.  The gnostic becomes intrinsically virtuous and thus has no need of the constraints of moral law.

Fundamental Love, or compassion, makes its universal appearance via religion.  Evoked and supported through authentic religion, the truth of Love has the power to gather itself and assert itself into human culture. This is what has happened in the case of each of the great religions.  Love through understanding arrives, often via one gifted human being, and spreads until it becomes the base value of a culture.  However, it is almost universally the fate of religions that unloving forces, primarily the greed for power, a form of insanity, co-opts the original inspiration and exploits the religion to its own purposes and ends. This is what happened when Rome took over the Christian Church, and the West has been living out the resulting contradictions ever since.

It is always incumbent upon the people of the culture, indeed each individual, to discriminate through the mendacity perpetrated by religious authorities and conditioned into their own reality to find the kernal of the true, the gnosis in the religious mythology.  This is why authentic gnostics are always moved to reform the church.

Within each religion, behind its façade of beliefs and symbologies, is a methodology.  If we have the discernment to see this methodology and follow it, we are provided with a means to achieve gnosis.  If we have an understanding of this truth, the real nature of Christ, the historical facticity of Jesus becomes a non-issue, an irrelevant distraction. It does not really matter.

(For more on gnosis, see the essay The Heart of the Matter)

3. Jesus: A Likely Story

Now that we have established that the historical facticity of biblical events is irrelevant to the true nature of the living Christ, let us revisit the original question: Did Jesus Christ exist?
    
Here is a likely story. Probably a remarkable person named Jesus existed and became a great teacher. The story of Paul and the situation he was in, of persecuting members of a cult who followed a recently executed prophet, indicates to me that such a teacher did exist.  But he was certainly never a Christian, rather one of those authentic mystics who reformed the “church” of his time.  

He lived in a period, not unlike our own, of great spiritual diffusion, growing up as he did at a nexus of the Roman and Hellenistic cultures near the Silk Road that led to the East. As a Jew he was surrounded by elders of a reactionary culture that was deeply threatened by this spiritual diffusion and the authority of Rome.  In reaction, the
Jewish authorities were very tight-minded, in a word, fundamentalists.  

What was a brilliant Jew of his time to do?  In the years from the time he was twelve to the time he was thirty, the “missing” years of his life of which there are no accounts, it is most likely that he traveled East, out of the oppressive influence of Semitic legalism and Roman authority into the world influenced by India.  At this time the star of Buddhism was reaching its zenith in India.  Not far down the silken route he would have taken was one of the greatest and most massive of all Buddhist universities, Nalanda. In the environment illuminated by this star his spiritual genius was attracted to the pragmatic teaching of budhi, the state of divine compassion upon enlightenment as the ultimate human achievement.  Becoming enlightened, he assimilated and clarified the truth of gnosis and, journeying home, brought this illumination of divine Love into the Semitic world under the domination of Rome.

The power of the Love he taught was so great that it transcended Judaism, but also, as Jesus realized, “fulfilled” it.  This constituted a fundamental threat to all the local structures of power.  The teaching of the achievement of divine Love was too revolutionary for the Semitic establishment, who were trying to survive by collaborating with Rome.  Its essential freedom stirred things up and attracted the zealots who awaited a “messiah”, a warrior whose sword would deliver the Jews from the captivity of Rome. But Jesus’ serene declaration was that only divine compassion would transcend the power of Rome and eventually undermine it.  In time these rebel Jews grew impatient with this teaching of non-violence. A political collusion between the disappointed rebels and the fundamentalists of Jewish tradition took place, and Jesus was sold out to Rome in the person of the local governor, who, apparently against his better judgment, acceded to the demands arising out of this local disruption to allow the man to be sentenced to death.  It is also likely that he was crucified.  This became a primordial image, for all time, of a fundamental existential truth; how the lust for power overwhelms divine Love.

The horrible end of Jesus was utterly traumatic to his followers and those who believed in him.  Some among them that had completely internalized his teaching of Love grew enflamed by it.  This was a figurative resurrection, which over the course of almost a century, melded together with the divine resurrection themes current in Hellenistic culture, themes which in their own heyday had mythically expressed the truth of divine Love.  Over 200 years this mythology overtook the “facts”. Remember, no one cared about facts anyway.

In my view, the Gnostics, who used the story of Jesus to engender and clarify the state of gnosis, had it right.  As their gospels, recently recovered from their hiding places in the earth, clearly demonstrate, they were small communities dedicated to achieving, developing and promulgating this state.  But gnosis is the very essence of freedom, which was (and remains) antithetical to any centralized organization such as the Roman Empire or Catholic Church.  This is why the separation of church and state in the eighteenth century was such an important step in cultural evolution.

In the fourth century, the wave of Christian Love grew so attractive that the Roman Empire, which for 300 years had been trying to wipe out Christianity, shifted its policy to “conquer” it by assimilating it.  Finally, under Constantine, the Empire overtook it and made it over into its own image.  In the Apostles Creed those elements of the Christian mythology and writing that reinforced the centralized power of the church became doctrine, and the rest, that which led to the freedom of gnosis, was cruelly and preemptively dispatched along with all traces of classical Hellenistic culture and wisdom.  Gnosis and the scriptural gospels that presented and promoted the living Christ were hidden away in the earth, deep in the mystery. Thus was born the catholic (universal) Church, and Europe plunged into the Dark Ages.

But the Dark Ages were also the age of faith.   And faith, rightly practiced, can be the flintstone of gnosis.  Gnosis constantly reasserted itself in the experiences of the Christian mystics, often suppressed by the church and its preoccupation with power.  When periodically the power madness of the church became overwhelming, persons achieving gnosis would seek to reform it, culminating in the protestant revolt and the Reformation. But these too, perhaps inspired by the powerful and refreshing realization of divine Love, nevertheless succumbed in the same way to the greed for power and control.

I believe this to be the real history of Jesus Christ.

4. The Value of Anti-Religious Thought

The confiscation of the truth of Christ into the authoritative structure of the Roman Empire gave this gentle guidance the entitlement of power that has been exploited for centuries as a way of dominating and controlling.  The power aspects of Christianity have played a part in all the violence throughout Western history, what we could call the anti-Christ in all religions: ignorance, superstition, bigotry, judgment, force, militancy, violence in the name of God.  

The power madness in authoritative religion may finally have reaped its just rewards. The world has witnessed the use of Christianity to fuel the disastrous policies of the Bush Administration and the use of Islam to fuel the militant fundamentalism raging in the rest of the world into a clash resonant of the medieval crusades.  The policies have hastened dramatically the process of deterioration of world peace and well-being.

The increasing atheism represents a legitimate rebellion against the inauthenticity of Christian belief and the excesses of power and greed that have thrived in its name. We can surely do without these, and anything that purges them at their roots is of greatest value.  

Perhaps the real challenge for Christians is to welcome these critiques, purge themselves of the inauthentic elements and return to the spiritual roots of Love through understanding.  This is radical. It will be up to those who experience the gnosis of the living Christ to re-form the religion and cast away its illusions.

Throw out the bathwater, but rediscover, indeed become, the babe.

True Success


To Be 95 and Happy

Maud-Key Rock on her 97th Birthday
December 10, 2003

What is true success in this life?

As I head toward three score and ten years, I have been wondering how to evaluate the nature of true success. But I may be too young. It may be that the question is so fundamental that only at the end of life would one have the experience to be able to provide an answer. Realizing this limitation, I have, over the last few years, sought out mentors and inspiring examples.

I have always been attracted into intimate friendships with the old and wise.  Not the least of these was my own mother, Maud-Key Shelton Rock, who lived to the age of 97.  In her last years, I helped her write her autobiography, The Song of My Life, in the last chapter of which she attempted to account for how she had managed to have such a happy life.

But there have also been the timeless masters. One is Boethius, a great thinker of the fifth century AD under the Christian Emperor Theodosius.  He was a high official in the government, but he ran afoul of the emperor and was thrown into prison.  Eventually he was executed by being bludgeoned to death. Having lost everything that defined his profuse worldly success, he writes in prison, representing his illuminations as a visitation from the goddess Philosophia.  Under the duress of his dire situation, she helps him to evaluate the tokens of success he has lost and find true refuge in the neo-platonic light of the One, the Truth and the Good.  This experience he recorded in what became one of the great guides of medieval Christianity, The Consolation of Philosophy.

A second master, one thousand years older, is the founder of Taoism.  Lao Tse was the quirky and legendary source of the Tao Te Ching, which clarifies the true value and path to everlasting life, the Tao.  One law he reveals is how all that makes up life moves between opposites. Whatsoever one has or does in excess one pays for in excessive liability.  To follow the true way of being, the way of the middle, prevents the suffering of excess and its burdens and eventually leads to an understanding of the Tao. Succeeding on this path defines the very nature of success itself.

In my quest I have also been taking counsel from a few other venerables of the past, such as Plato and Plotinus, and a few sages of the present, in particular the Dalai Lama.  Perhaps the framework for an answer to the question of success comes from the greatest of all teachers, the Buddha: all beings desire happiness and the avoidance of suffering.  If we look upon these as goals, they form the parameters of successful life.

So, inspired by these wise and happy examples, let us turn to the question itself.  What is the common view of success and what is a view that authentically fits the case?

The Common View of Success

Boethius’ losses in this world were cataclysmic.  His tract begins with a radical deconstruction of the common view of success. Money, power and sex are mere tokens, because, as Boethius shows, the happiness they afford is limited and their loss creates suffering. Here is a short summary.

Of course, one has to have the good fortune of sufficiency, that the basic needs of life are covered.  Beyond this, the first token of success, accumulating wealth, soon proves to be a considerable encumbrance. The desire for money, “the root of all evil”, hardly produces happiness, though it arises out of the supposition that happiness can be bought, a specious formula that inevitably ends in disappointment and creates unhappiness. Having more money than one needs creates burdens that are unimaginable to the poor. To have a great deal of money means to have proportionate responsibility and to live in fear of losing it.  Wealth generates envy and desire on the part of others, which constitutes a constant personal threat. The more one has, the more one can lose, the fear of which itself becomes a great burden. To be irresponsible with money when others have so little eventually creates a suffering of its own.  

Power and fame bring a superficial egoistic satisfaction, but the soul- destroying machinations needed to generate it and hold on to it and the constant anxiety that one can lose it create misery and unhappiness.  Fame often exposes hidden convictions that one is undeserving, which generates agendas of self-destruction.  The envy and jealousy of those who have less prevents real genuine love from happening.  It sets up a situation in which one is constantly having to be on guard and unable to really trust the love of anyone.

Success in love and sex fulfills genuine needs and creates joy, but the greater the pleasure the more painful its transience.  The more one has, the more one becomes dependent upon it and eventually addicted to it.  Sensuality generates the suffering of addiction and loss.

These are the measures of success desperately pursued by the world.  We can dismiss them as mere tokens because they lead to suffering and do not generate true happiness.  The world that elevates these goals eventually comes to be seen as foolish and vain, in a word, ugly. Once this ugliness is realized, just being in this world and observing it can produce suffering in its own right. None of this, which the world pursues with such dedication and vanity, leads to happiness and prevents suffering.

True Well-Being

In contrast to this, I have the experience of my mother at the end of her life.  Granted, she was blessed by good fortune with basic health, beauty, talent, money, the faithful love of a good husband and three children who adored her.  But, at the age of 95, she achieved a whole new level of beauty, which drew comment wherever she went, she had enough money to be moderately gracious, and she was radiantly loving with every person she met.  So she has taught me to understand a formula for true success in life.  It is really quite simple, and I have taken it on as my lifetime ambition: to be 95 and happy.

In considering such a life we have to consider fate. Are we fated to succeed, or do we have something to do with it?  Life success is a combination of prudence and good fortune.  Prudence is a rare concept these days; it means practical wisdom representing regard for and adherence to the basic laws of Being and existence, which Lao Tse called the Tao. Good fortune is not earned in the present, though it may be the result of good actions or karma from the greater past, as all Hindus and Buddhists believe.  In the present, however, it must be given.  In the exercise of prudence, on the other hand, there is all freedom.  In this regard, well-being is not mere fate, but a matter of choice, moment to moment.

There are successes in life, many occasions of the token variety described above.  But here we are considering success in life as a whole.  This has physical, emotional and intellectual/spiritual components.  And these we will turn to now.

To be 95…
To achieve this advanced age much good fortune is necessary.  First of all, one’s fundamental needs must be covered.  Second, one must live in a good time.  Having long life in a period of general suffering, with all the infirmities of age, hardly seems desirable.  But given that one lives in a felicitous, or at least interesting time, in order to reach this age, one has to have the blessing of good genes.  This blessing however cannot hold up into advanced age wit
hout the appropriate culture of the body, which is all about choice. 

Genetic blessing means there is a kind of guarantee on the body until about forty, but from then on out, physical well-being is a function of awareness and care. In this way, success means that one has learned over the years to avoid the hazards of the time, like our fast food and environmental carcinogens.  But much more, it means that one has learned true physical culture, how to honor one’s body and keep it going.  In my view health is a practice. It is so fundamental that it should have the highest priority. The earlier one begins, the better.  Bodily culture begins as a hobby, but as the guarantee starts running out, it gets cultivated into an art, and, towards 95, it becomes a full time job.

To reach 95 is a measure of success, because it means one has been blessed with good fortune but has also been an appropriate steward of that fortune.
On its own, however, the achievement of physical well-being does not suffice as life success. 

…And happy
We all seek the false tokens of success.  For most people they are what life is all about.  But as Philosophia showed Boethius, in time they inevitably disappoint and lead to despair. To be happy at 95 requires that one is successful in dealing with this despair.  It means that one has found out how to be happy in spite of life’s disappointments, a very great challenge in its own right.

Central to this happiness is finding and growing into the true love potential in one’s heart.  For some this means mating and breeding.  For those fortunate ones for whom marriage and family go well, there can be deep fulfillment and happiness.  For many others, marriage or family lead to great suffering.  Most basically, however, happiness of the heart comes from being able to choose to be with whomever one loves, to develop the skills for achieving harmony with them, but also being able to deal with their loss.  All of this requires the fundamental life skill of forgiveness, not just of others, but of existence itself.

The real success here is that one finds true value, coming to terms with one’s being to its Source.

This brings us to the crux of the matter. When Philosophia appears to Boethius, she informs him that while he may believe that God rules the world, he does not know what he himself is, and this absence of self-knowledge is the cause of his weakness.  Self-knowledge is the substance of her further revelations.  This is the discovery of one’s true nature, not just in the sense of  ‘finding oneself’, or one’s true identity in the world, a precondition for some earlier worldly success, but more in the sense of one’s ultimate nature, which, unborn, though knowable, extends beyond the beginning and end of life.

My friend Frank Kelly is the last surviving senior member of an august group of Olympian intellectuals, the Court of Reason, which was known as the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions in Santa Barbara.  Frank is on the cusp of 95 and has discovered that we are all radiant beings, which he describes in his book, Living in Eternity’s Sunrise.  Having realized this radiance as his own true nature, he is a deeply happy soul.

The venerable teachers discussed above and many others clarify the way to this radiance.  Many who succeed in this way find it through religion. My mother, who was not a philosopher, found this Source through her simple but authentic Christian faith, which quietly sustained her throughout her life and flowered into deep happiness in maturity.  Others need to find it through philosophia, the maturity of wisdom.  Socrates taught us that the potential of wisdom is innate in all of us, but it has to be cultivated and allowed to mature.  This can be understood on an analogy from botany.  A plant grows naturally, but it has to be unimpeded and cultivated.  The human psyche flowers into wisdom, but it takes great abilities to get out of the way of this process and at the same time to nurture it. This is known in Buddhism as ‘skillful means’.  Great teachers show us how to do this.

With characteristic economy, Lao Tse has formulated true success:
“Contentment is the greatest wealth.”

Dedicated to my beloved and exceedingly successful friend, Francis Lord Thurlow, on his 98th Birthday

Gay Marriage: Church and State

The issue of gay marriage is based upon an ambiguity which can be resolved by resorting to the separation of church and state.

Clearly, marriage is a hot question which is basically religious.  On one side, there is the desire for equal rights of gay people fuelled by rage at centuries of discrimination.  On the other, there is the precedent of Christian tradition that marriage has been celebrated as a union of a man and a woman fuelled by Biblical condemnation of homosexuality and deep homophobia.  As gays hold the “abomination” of gay marriage to the feet of Christians, the inflammation increases. Traditional Christians will not give this up. Some Christian churches however are in favor of sanctioning marriages between two members of the same sex.

This can all be clarified as a separation of church and state.  Marriage belongs to the Church and legal partnership belongs to the State.

The State  
Legal partnerships should be legislated as a matter of the state.  They should be legal unions, with all obligations, rights and protections guaranteed under law to any two people who are willing to enter such a contract.  These should not be called marriage, but something like civil unions.  It could be that this would replace civil marriages.

This arrangement was successfully instituted in France and is now
available throughout the European Union, under the name of PACS, (le pacte civile de solidarite).  Many straight couples also choose this option over marriage.  As a consequence, there is no controversy whatsoever around “gay marriage.”   This simple solution suggests that the entire dispute in the US is a colossal waste of time and energy.

The Church
The claims around marriage are a matter of religion. The term “marriage” should be turned over to individual religions and churches.  If your church does not recognize the sanctity of same sex marriage, it need not perform them.  If your church recognizes them, by whatever name they choose, let them perform them.  People should be free to call their union by whatever name they choose.  This is all a matter of religious freedom.

The separation of church and state is one of the greatest clarifications in Western history, initially established by Jesus himself when he said render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto the Father, what is His.