How Long Should We Wait?

I am having a quiet day while I wait for the inauguration of doom to deal with itself. I am staying away from TV, and YouTube, and keeping a distance from Facebook. I have decided, along with many people, to not lend my attention to the debacle that culminates this tortuous election season.

I am also engaging in a bit of sacredness. I am enjoying some hot dogs on this Friday, with buns as a way to re-focus on my most beloved religion. (For those of you who don’t know what this means, see here.) While I enjoyed my repast, I offered prayers and good wishes for those on the front lines of the protests today. If Eris, the Goddess of Confusion, can’t help out today I don’t know a divinity who can!

This election has ignited a great many conflicting emotions for a great many people. Some are getting tired of hearing about it. I don’t blame them at all. I admit to being worn out by the whole thing. People have been employing a variety of methods for dealing with this on social media. One has been the adoption of the refrain, “Wait and see!” This has been coming from folks who voted for Drumpf, as well as those who voted for Clinton. I get that this is an expression of frustration with regard to the near ever-present complaints about the PEOTUS decorating our social media feeds. I can very much understand the sentiment. However, this leads me to the question of, “Wait for what?” Haven’t we already seen? We’ve seen how Drumpf treats the media. We have seen how he treats the disabled. We have heard what he thinks of women. We have seen his dishonest business practices and failures. We have seen his racism on full display. We have seen him avoid taking any firm stand. We have seen his desire to divide the country. We have seen him flip-flop on his issues. We have seen him publicly admit that his campaign promises and propaganda was full of conscious lies and marketing tricks. We have seen him praise our opposition on the international level. We have not seen his tax returns, despite him saying he would disclose them if he won the election.

For what more do we need to wait and see, exactly? I don’t see how anyone can have gotten to this point in the process and not have an opinion about how this joker is likely to comport himself as President. I mean, I get that we can know that he will most probably not carry through on any of his promises, but that’s not about what he will do, it’s about what he very likely won’t do. So, what is it we are supposed to wait for? Not only do I find the notion of wait and see dangerous (as a friend said, “Do we need to see people die for lack of the ACA before we realize it was a bad idea to eliminate it completely?”), I honestly don’t understand what more we could see that will make us decide.

Wait and see what?

photo credit

It’s All Made Up

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I love me some infographics!

I think the whole idea of an infographic is really keen, and I enjoy learning in a visual way. I makes it quite easy for me to draw relations for the information and fit the data into context.

I came across one the other day that is right up my alley.

This infographic shows (to the best accuracy of available information) the distribution of religions in the world population. I found several things in it that ran contrary to my assumptions. Some religions I thought were smaller. Some were larger. For one, I thought Buddhism was a much bigger fraction of the world’s religions.

As I studied the graphic I realized something was missing.

Where was my own personal (most of the time) religion, Discordia? (Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!)

Where are the Pastafarians, the followers of the Flying Spaghetti Monster? (Bless his noodly appendage!)

Where were the Jedi? In 2001, in the England and Wales census, 390,127 respondents declared their faith as Jediism. That’s over three times the number of Zoroastrians in the world, according to the chart. And, 523 times more than the listed number of Samaritans!

Where was the Church of the SubGenuis!!!

I scanned back & forth across the information searching for some mention. I realized that they were not including “made up religions.” I could not figure out why they would do that. Then it hit me. Square in the pineal gland. (Sorry. Inside joke. Very, very inside…) They weren’t including the so-called “made up” religions because that would give up the game too easily.

What’s the game, you say? Well, here it is: They are all made up. Some more obviously than others, and some with tons of poetry wrapped up around their inspiration, but when you come down to it they are all made up. In all cases, women and men sat down and created these things. Even if you buy the idea of divine inspiration (which I sometimes do) it still comes down to humans taking the notes & practices and then propagating them.

However, with the march of years and the persistence of generations, these particular religions became engraved in our contextual and cultural souls. We have come to accept them as given parts of life, if not facts. We have taken them as “real.”

To a degree they are real. They are as much of a part of our world as taxes and cleaning. What is making them real though, in this case, is our acceptance.

So, what makes the “made up” religions not real is just a lack of acceptance. If we took that on board then we would have to face that all the religions of the world, big & small, venerated & ridiculed, are viewed the way they are only on our say so.

We would have to face up to them all being made up.

Personally I find such a notion liberating.

Book Review: “Reality” by Peter Kingsley

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“Reality” is a book by Peter Kingsley which delves into the mystery tradition of Parmenides. Parmenides is the philosopher held as the “father of logic.” The poem he left behind holds the basis of all logic used today, which also makes him, in a way, the father of rational thought, science, and pretty much the entire cultural basis for the Western world. The trouble though is that Parmenides was not a rationalist. His exploration of logic is a byproduct of what he was really about, if you accept Peter Kingsley’s interpretation. Parmenides was a mystic and a practitioner of an initiatory practice known as “incubation.” In this initiation practice, one lays perfectly still in a dark, enclosed space, for hours, or even days, on end. The poem Parmenides left behind is not an allegory, it’s a field report of a trip to the underworld where Paremnides was shown by the goddess Persephone what reality really is.

Sidebar here: I’ve poked around a bit and there is a lot of heated debate out there about Kingsley’s interpretations. I am in no way qualified to have an opinion about whether Kingsley is on to something here. This review is more about the teaching he outlines, and how it happens to parallel a few other teachings I also happen to be a fan of.

Peter Kingsley spends 560+ pages outlining the teaching and tradition of Parmenides, and those who he passed the torch onto, namely Empedocles, and then Gorgias. He shows how the intended lessons of Parmenides were whitewashed by Plato, and then Aristotle. It is due to these manipulations, and careful re-workings of this teaching that changed the transmission of a method for coming to direct embrace with the underpinnings of reality, into a dry set of maxims for the foundation of logical and rational thought. Essentially reducing a model that relates to our heart and gut to one that only exists for the brain.

What Parmenides was actually leaving us was a road map for traveling to the divine realms so that we might re-connect with our own divinity and see beyond the veiled face of reality we normally live with. Heady stuff for a guy who history touts as being (only) the father of dry logical process. Early in Paremnides’ poem, the goddess giving him a tour of reality makes a bold claim: Everything is real. Everything you can conceive is real. Somehow, somewhere. Whatever is, in any form, is real. The goddess takes Parmenides to a fork in the road and tells him that one fork leads to utter reality and existence. The other road leads to non-existence. Of course a road to non-existence is a paradox, but paradoxes is what this teaching is all about. She instructs our poet that the real trap in existence is not whether you choose existence, or non-existence. Rather, the trap lies in not making a choice, and passing your days vacillating at the fork in the road. The goddess says that this is the default condition of humanity. They neither make the choice for existence, or non-existence. Instead they waste their lives taking a few steps along one path, then they think better of it and give the other one a try, and so on. Back and forth, neither fully existing, or fully not-existing for eternity while life and reality pass them by.

After illustrating this basic problem with humanity, and the plight of the “ordinary” person, the goddess goes on to tell Parmenides that reality is all an illusion. This is a seemingly complete reversal of her previous statement that everything exists. This too is a major characteristic of this teaching tradition: a constant flipping of meaning, intention, and instruction on its head. Now the goddess shows to Parmenides how the reality we call home is illusory due to our dependence on, and misunderstanding of, our sense perceptions.

Then along comes Empedocles as Parmenides’ successor in this teaching tradition. He does not continue on from where Paremnides’ poem ends. Instead he paints a very different picture of how reality works. He puts aside the idea of everything being real while also being an illusion. Instead he paints a picture of reality being an oscillation between periods of everything being separated into the four basic elements of earth, water, fire, and air, and periods of everything being mixed together to create the myriad things we find in day to day life. Empedocles states that these cycles run from Strife, to Love, and then back to Strife. Oddly enough, he is regarded as teaching that all things are (in essence), Love. People seem to run past the fact that he specifically starts his list with Strife. Empedocles taught that the basic state of things was separated, and not desiring to mix. Realities basic state, the one to which it returns again, and again, is Strife.

As Empedocles’ work progresses he paints a picture of Love, personified by the goddess Aphrodite, as being the ultimate seducer. Love is a supreme trickster that attracts us into a state of being intermixed and holds us there blinded by the seeming joy of life. Empedocles specifically calls to mind the aspects of Aphrodite which are not altogether positive. In the mythology of the time, Aphrodite was infamous for using her beauty and charms to get what she wanted without a care for the costs others would pay. (Can you say “Trojan War”?)

Empedocles seems to paint a picture of Love being all bad, and Strife being all good. However, he leaves some loud clues later in his work that this is a trap. Here again we see the reversals and contradictions that this teaching tradition employs. He paints a very strong picture of seeing Strife as the hero, and Love as the villain, then he flips that hard and lets us know in no uncertain terms that if we hold these rigid views, we will be trapped.

The along comes Gorgias. A famous sophist both touted, and vilified for his wit. According to Kingsley (and a document left behind by an Arab scholar), Gorgias was Empedocles’ successor. He was the next step in this mystery tradition of purposefully obfuscating and inverting the teaching. Accordingly, he spent some good amount of his teaching time undercutting both Parmenides, and Empedcoles. He also spent a lot of time poking fun at anyone who thought they knew what was going on.

The sum and substance of long mystery tradition is this: The problematic habit that humans have that sits at the core of their suffering relationship with life is not a matter of holding onto the wrong beliefs. It’s a case of holding onto any belief at all. As long as you cling to something as being right, and something else as being wrong you will get into trouble.

This tradition falls into strong accord with three other sources that I happen to hold near & dear, and in which I find great value.

The first is the “Hsin Hsin Ming” (Verses on the Faith Mind) attributed to┬áSeng T’san, the 3rd patriarch of Zen.

“The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences.
When love and hate are both absent everything becomes clear and undisguised.
Make the smallest distinction, however, and heaven and earth are set infinitely apart.

If you wish to see the truth then hold no opinions for or against anything.
To set up what you like against what you dislike is the disease of the mind.

When the deep meaning of things is not understood the mind’s essential peace is disturbed to no avail.”

This is the opening refrain of the Hsin Hsin Ming. Like the works of Parmenides and Empedocles, it comes down to us in the form of a poem. Seng T’san opens with a direct, and radical, disclosure of the teaching of not holding to any belief as true. The trick of course, which he goes on to describe in the rest of the poem is holding to tightly to even the belief that one should not hold to a belief. In this way the teaching is not so much a thing learned as it is a constant practice, ever reaffirmed.

Another source I find to be in line with Parmenides, et al, is the profound and monumental Principia Discordia. Also inspired by the Greek treatment of the idea of Strife. In this case, the Goddess Eris, mother of discord, bureaucracy, and international relations. This wonderful tome was penned in the late 60’s and can be viewed as either a joke disguised as a religion, a religion disguised as a joke, or both. One of the core revelations of this thin tome is the idea of reality-tunnels. That each of us (through biology, psychology, philosophy, and cultural conditioning) inhabits a tunnel, or view on reality that is uniquely our own. No two reality-tunnels are ever the exact same. All perception is a gamble, and the best way to make do with what you have is to let go of the idea that what you have is correct in any real (or ultimate) sense.

Lastly there is the body of work of Robert Anton Wilson, who was also a huge proponent of Discordianism. In the introduction to his book, “Cosmic Trigger volume 1: The Final Secret of the Illuminati” Bob tries to clarify something his critics don’t seem to get. In big, bold letters he makes a singular declaration, “I don’t believe anything.” The book deals with a period in Bob’s life when he purposefully experimented with intentionally changing his world view, and his belief system, in specific and radical ways. I won’t spoil the fun of reading the book, but one example is when Bob was practicing ritual magic and he started receiving telepathic messages from someone in the Sirius star system. As he played with this information, and entertained this idea, he slowly morphed who he held as the originating source of these messages. For a while they came from his guardian angel. Later they came from a creature of Irish legend called the Pooka, a 6 foot tall invisible white rabbit. Bob settled on the last form because there was no chance anyone else would take the messages seriously, and there was very little chance he, himself would take the messages seriously. Bob did that in service to his lifelong philosophical principles which are perfectly crystallized in the statement, “I don’t believe anything.”

All of these traditions illustrate very strongly the profoundly liberating stance of not taking a preferential stance on any point. In the end, it may be impossible to have no preferences at all about anything. Being human seems to entail some basic preferences. However, the point here is not perfection since that too would be a preferential stance. Instead this is a lifelong practice: to not have a preference where one is not needed, and to hold any that do show up incredibly lightly. In this way we become free to move through life as it shows up, rather than demanding that certain aspects be a particular way.

This teaching has been around for thousands of years. It’s voice still seems to be very quiet. In keeping with the teaching itself, this idea is not insistent at all. If it were, that would be in opposition to its message. I, for one, am listening and I think if you let it bend your ear you may be very happy with the results.