The horizon is not so far as we can see, but as far as we can imagine

How Religions Go Wrong (Fire From The Gods 3)

Back in February I started a series on how the great solutions like Christianity, Buddhism, Capitalism, Marxism and many more have tried to fix the problems created by our ability to invent creations, like agriculture, industrialization and, indeed, the internet, which wind up doing us vast harm.

Start by reading:

Fire From The Gods: the Original Sins of Agriculture and Industrialism And Hope For The Future

Then read the first post, about Buddha’s quixotic quest to end suffering.

“Fuck Suffering”, The Buddhist Solution (Part One)

Then I wrote the third article on how Buddhism goes wrong and realized that most of what I was writing about what actually applicable to most religions and I stalled out: perhaps I had been wrong or perhaps I didn’t understand the situation as well as I thought (not quite the same thing.)

So I’m going to continue this series now with the ways that religions, in general, go wrong, before returning to how specific ideologies (remember, religions are just a subset of ideology) go wrong. Since I’ve already started, I’ll make Buddhism the primary example religion.

I was caught on the horns of another dilemma before even the first attempt.. If one is going to talk honestly about mysticism, not just religion, and great religions are born from mysticism even if they often lose it over time, one can’t adopt a secular materialistic worldview. And when it comes to this I have a particular problem: I’ve done a lot of work and had experiences that standard materialism, as a metaphysics, can’t explain and that “skeptics” would consider bullshit.

The problem with religion in actual practice is that “weird shit” happens. I can’t think of any advanced practitioner who I’m friends enough with to allow honesty (because talking about this is a bad idea) who hasn’t dealt with world-view shattering weirdness.

To write this article without talking about that at least a bit would be dishonest. At the end of the day, I have only one rule of blogging, I tell the truth as I know it. I may be wrong; I might be full of shit, but I don’t write what I don’t believe to be true.

So let’s get to it. Since I know that most people won’t have clicked thru to the articles I linked, I’m going to quote a chunk of the Buddhist piece, on what the Buddha was trying to do.

…the essence of the Buddha’s question is heroic to the point of being quixotic. Siddhartha saw suffering and instead of saying “well, it’s inevitable, I just have to accept it” instead determined:

Fuck suffering. I refuse to accept it is inevitable and I will dedicate my life to finding a way to end suffering.

Now that’s heroic to the extent of imbecility, except that he seems to have succeeded.

This is the core of all great ideologies, of which religions are a subset. The are based on a heroic ideal: a heroic conception of what it is possible for humans to achieve. Something extremely idealistic, often to the point of near insanity.

Now the first thing to note is that Buddhism, as preached by the Buddha, is based on genuine belief in reincarnation. The Buddha famously refused to discuss almost all metaphysics, but rebirth was baked into Buddhism at the start. You’ve been born before and you’re going to be born again. This was horrifying to Indians of the time, and rightfully so. I’ve never understood why people who believe in only one life think reincarnation is a cop-out mechanism: nothing says you’re coming back to nothing but good lives or that horrible things won’t happen. And each time, you start over from near scratch.

This belief in reincarnation is important, it is part of the social contract between Buddhist monks, who often did not have monasteries, but wandered around like medieval European friars, begging for food and owning nothing they couldn’t carry, and the lay people who supported them, kept them alive and if they did have monasteries, were often the ones who built them.

I remember reading about how when a forest monk was found to have left the forest near a Thai village, the villagers decided that he was enlightened and holy and built a monastery for him. They built it because they felt they received something from having a monastery with an enlightened master in charge.

In the same book, the author, who was trying out to see if he wanted to become a monk, and thus following some of the rules, when begging for food said “thank you”. The woman who gave him the food was so offended she went to the Abbot (no longer the original master) and told him she and her family would never give food to the monastery’s monks ever again.

She wasn’t giving food to the monks out of charity. It was a bargain: I give you food, and your lineage owes me. Thank you was considered an attempt to make her act into charity.

This is based on the idea that monks who make actual progress get powers. They owe the people who supported them while they were working, and their lineage owes those people as well. In exchange they use their powers to help those people, perhaps in this life and perhaps in future lives, including helping them have future better lives and, when they are read, to become enlightened themselves.

Christian monks had the same deal going in many cases: huge amounts of money, land, treasure and people were given to monasteries because they prayed for the souls of the dead and their prayers were held to help those alive.

Now to a materialist, this is obviously a crock of shit, and intended to defraud the lay people into supporting monks who can then just laze around. And often enough it is.

But, again, if you do enough spiritual work, weird shit starts to happen or you see weird shit. I knew a guru who could pluck specific words and phrases out of my mind, even over the phone. He wasn’t cold reading me, the knowledge was exact and precise, not just “you’re thinking about X”, but the precise words in my head. I’ve seen other things.

Weird shit is real, and people who do a lot of spiritual work often develop what might as well be called powers. This isn’t D&D or movie magic, they don’t throw fireballs, but it’s stuff that the materialist paradigm doesn’t explain.

So the social deal in a lot of communities is “we support the monks, and they help us.” Some of that is absolutely basic stuff like giving good advice, teaching the lay members and so on, but some of it is “we help you, you use your magic powers to help us and even if we don’t get enlightened in this life, you’ll help us get enlightened in a future life.” This was especially true in the past, but it is still true in some of the most Buddhist countries in the world, like Thailand and Burma.

This goes wrong in a lot of ways. The simplest is that many monasteries and monks are not sincerely working to get enlightened. Thai monasteries are famous for fat, lazy and greedy monks; for entire monasteries full of people just looking for an easy life. This has been a problem all thru Buddhist history.

In Christian monasteries, drunk monks were common, corruption was common, in some particularly egregious cases nuns were prostitutes, though in general, as time went on, the nuns had a better reputation than the monks.

The second is something that Buddhist literature brings up again and again: magic isn’t enlightenment. Having powers does not mean you are enlightened in the sense of “not suffering.” It sure as  hell does not mean you are compassionate or good.

People do a bit of spiritual work and they get powers, some of which are not magic, but simply applied psychology based on remarkable feats of control over consciousness, and people who are suffering go to them for help. But as they aren’t good people or enlightened, what they do may be better for them than for the people looking for that help, or it may be well- meaning but ineffective.

This is especially a problem in Buddhism because Buddhism isn’t about getting “powers”, it is about ending suffering. In Christianity this is dealt with as the dichotomy of those who get their powers from God and those who get them from Satan.

As is always the case, there are a lot of people who are unhappy and suffering and looking for a savior or saviors. It’s hard to make any big gains, to radically change your life for the better in a way that doesn’t fall pray to falling back to your “normal” level of happiness. When that does happen, people tend to get fixated on whatever or whoever they feel was responsible.

It’s easy to leverage “spiritual” attainments into worldly power and wealth. In the modern world this is greatly on display with the Indian “God Men”, who are some of the richest and most powerful people in India and whose support is one of the main factors in the current Prime Minister’s rise to power, which he has used to embrace xenophobic and fascist policies and to oppress Muslims and other non Hindu inhabitants of India, of whom there are hundreds of millions.

Tibet was a feudal theocratic, complete with horribly mistreated serfs and nasty dungeons. “We have special knowledge and/or powers and/or virtues you must serve us” is a way that all major religions go bad and Buddhism is not an exception.

But most of what we’re talking about here applies to all religions, not just Buddhism. The monastic abuses happened in Christianity as in Buddhism: it’s an issue with the form. Christian monks were absolutely trading divine blessings for secular support, and if those blessings were often of a different form than Buddhist ones, the problems were essentially the same: monks without attainments, fat and lazy; or monks who were not holy but had some accomplishments abusing those accomplishments.

In all these cases, however, the central goal is forgotten or perverted. Buddhism’s goal is to end suffering and when it’s not possible (yet) to end it, to reduce it. Thus the Buddhist Indian emperor Asoka instituted laws against abuse of animals, for example, and in Tibet excavation for buildings would include carefully removing the dirt then sorting thru it to remove all the insects and worms so as to not harm them. Vegetarianism is often associated with sincere Buddhism in places where it’s possible (it’s not in Tibet) and for the same reason: to reduce suffering of animals.

In Christianity the goal includes certain moral attainments, including certain actions. If you get powers and you aren’t a good person, well, you’ve missed the boat. In Buddhism, the goal is to end suffering, and if you haven’t done that for yourself  or you aren’t at least reducing suffering in others and yourself, you’re off the boat.

Implicit in Buddhism, and a problem it shares with other religions which seek enlightenment, is the idea that enlightenment is the “best thing”, better than anything else you can ever have. As with Spanish conquistadors and priests burning pagans to death because they believed that would allow them to avoid Hell and the torment is nothing compared to an eternity in Hell, Buddhism is prone to abuses in the name of getting people enlightened.

The doctrine of “expedient means”, which is not something the Buddha ever said himself, allows one to lie to and mislead people. The metaphor is that if children are in a burning building and lying to them is necessary to get them out of the building, you do it. Enlightenment is the best thing, lying is justified.

This is different from the more standard Buddhist test for what to say, “is it both true and helpful.”

In Christianity, we have the crusades and the inquisition, and it is hard to see how one can justify that from a religion worshipping a man-god who said “love they enemies” and “turn the other cheek.”

Likewise, while a lot of guru abuse is because of Gurus looking out for themselves, some of it is because the Guru genuinely thinks that the abuse will help the student become enlightened.  (Gurus are particularly a thing in Hinduism and Tibetan Buddhism, but Zen Buddhism has often had a real problem with masters beating students. A rap with a stick and a beating are quite different.)

Any religion or ideology which believes in a redeemed state will lead to otherwise evil or immoral acts being considered acceptable in the name of the cause. Of course this is true of every major ideology: capitalism, Marxism, and democracy, among others.

The “best thing” problem exists in all great ideologies I can think of: there is a type of life; type of person, or both, who is best and that person is idealized and allowed to do things no one else is. In our modern world it might be the “job creators” in the European Middle Ages it was rulers (chosen by God), knights and monks/priests/hermits. The best life was either the life of glory and honor, or a life dedicated to God.

Some of these best people will always abuse their power and privilege and the percentage of them who do so is a good indicator of how corrupt a society is and how far an ideology has fallen.

Likewise the best life sucks energy and resources away from other lifestyles and hurts the people who are not in the best life. Tibetan serfs were treated abominably, as were European ones. Low caste and casteless Hindus are treated worse than cows. In our modern world those who don’t make much or any money are generally treated terribly, and since the suburbs was (and still is, to many) the ideal life, other types of life were sacrificed to create those houses with white picket fences.

At the base of any ideology; an religion, is a heroic view of the world. A great dream. But by prioritizing towards that great dream, classes of good people are created. Classes of good lives are created. Creating those good lives denigrates other lives. This isn’t automatically bad, but it’s very easy for it to go bad. “Good” people are entitled, we feel, to more power and resources. Bad people to less. It is the nature of the process, you can’t create the good without creating the bad. (This includes fairly simple things like being peaceful is good therefore being violent is bad, so don’t believe that creating the bad is always, well, bad.)

We’ve talked about religions here, but we’ll return to show, even more, how the common failure points of religions have their failure points in ideologies. (One that some readers may have picked up on is the similarity between monastries and corporations.)

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The Elements Of Persuasion


Open Thread


  1. Soredemos

    As a filthy materialist, yes, it is bullshit., but it’s often earnest bullshit. Religions mostly aren’t intentionally scamming people. It’s more that those pushing spiritual aid often materially profit from it, and the two tend to reinforce each other over time. There’s often cognitive dissonance involved.

    But, also as a filthy materialist, no. ‘Weird shit’ doesn’t happen. Humans are just really bad at falling into pattern seeking.

  2. Soredemos

    Buddhism and the issue of stereotypical religious concerns is interesting. It absolutely has a built-in, literal belief in reincarnation (or, well, the oldest Buddhist writings have this, with the big caveat that the oldest Buddhist writings are at least three hundred years after the man died. So who knows what he himself actually thought and said, or if he even existed). Nirvana was not a metaphor, it was a real mystical place outside the cycle of reincarnation.

    Buddhism emerged out of a Vedic religious landscape (that was in a social breakdown crisis. Hinduism, which is actually not the same thing as Vedic religion, would eventually emerge from this as well) and it accepted various preexisting Vedic concepts. But Buddha only went so far and just kind of ignored a lot of standard religious concerns, eg the affairs of gods. His followers and successors would often get frustrated by this ‘deficiency’ and so flavors of Buddhism got gradually more religious-y as time passed and more of that kind of stuff was grafted on. ‘Jesus walked on water’ style magical elements get added in as well, like how the only two animals to not weep for the Buddha after he died were the snake and cat, so obviously both these animals are evil.

    As for Buddhism itself, it contains ideas about the illusion of the self and psychology that line up pretty well with actual neuroscience. If you strip out the already fairly limited mystical parts you can mine a lot of pragmatic, practical worth out of Buddhism. You actually end up with something not too dissimilar from secular stoicism. Stripping away those mystical elements will cause most Buddhists to roll their eyes and insist you’re missing the point. But classical stoics would have similarly viewed a secular take on their thinking to be an abomination. I find the likely disapproval of both these categories amusing.

  3. Purple Library Guy

    I’m trying to think of a lie you could tell to children in a burning building that would be more effective at getting them out than yelling “Fire! Get out of the building!!!” and I’m not having much luck.

    Not quite always, but usually, when you see people talking about how you might have to lie to the people for their own good because they wouldn’t understand the necessity of what’s actually going on, who they are actually lying to is themselves, so they won’t have to confront the fact that in reality they are lying to people for their own benefit and the other people’s harm. A classic contemporary example is the “noble lie” idea as advanced by Leo Strauss and certain influential Chicago School of Economics types. Their lies aren’t actually noble at all, they’re intended to keep most people poor and powerless, and their kind of people rich and powerful; the reason the lies are necessary is not for anyone being lied to’s own good because they wouldn’t understand, but because if they found out the truth they WOULD understand and would rebel against it.

  4. Willy

    Be funny if at the end of the day, those nefarous few who’re best at acquiring personal power via a singleminded lifelong obsession to get any little scrap of it (but preferably as much as possible), saw religion as little more than yet another avenue towards concentrated power which they can conquer and remake for their own selfish reasons.

    Not funny is when the normal folk, the supplicants, just go along with it. For me it makes a mockery of the whole concept of religion.

  5. Soredemos

    “In Christianity, we have the crusades and the inquisition, and it is hard to see how one can justify that from a religion worshipping a man-god who said ‘love they enemies’ and ‘turn the other cheek.'”

    It’s extremely easy to justify it. First you have to separate Christianity as a system of social philosophy based around love from Christianity as a religion.

    As a religion the point is to get to heaven via Jesus. When those are the stakes, basically there are no limits. In fact it becomes an overriding obligation to try and save other people’s souls. Ideally you get the heretic or infidel to repent and come back to Jesus, but at minimum you can at least prevent the further spread of heresy endangering other souls. When the stakes are saving people from damnation, how could there logically be any restrictions on your actions? Nothing you could ever inflict on a person in this mortal plane is worse than what awaits them if you fail to save them.

    This is what theologically tends toward. Genuine logical deduction in service of abject nonsense leading you to horrible, stupid places. When the foundation is incoherent sand, no about of rational construction will keep the structure intact.

  6. Ian Welsh

    Yes, I’ve pointed out that logic myself a few times. Nonetheless, it’s a clear violation of what Jesus actually said.

  7. mago

    There’s so much to unpack here it’s impossible to know where to begin, and it’s futile to try.

    However, a couple of things. First, as I mentioned in the original thread way back when, the Buddha Shakyamuni said that there is dukha, or suffering, not that life is suffering.

    Then he taught the four noble truths about attachment as the cause and renunciation as the remedy. I’m not going into it.

    Reincarnation is fundamental to Buddhist theology. (I’ve taken it as a given since teenage years.) It ties into karma or cause and effect in the relative world, which just means that actions have consequences. Again, self obvious from my perspective.

    Tibetan Buddhism posits three yanas or paths: the Hinayana (Theravadan) the Mahayana (Zen) and the Vajrayana, which in the Tibetan system is considered the ultimate path which leads to enlightenment. Discourses on these subjects fill libraries.

    Nobody’s reading at this point, but undeterred I forge on.
    That thing about weird shit or powers that Ian mentions are called siddhis in Sanskrit. There are relative and absolute siddhis. An example of a relative siddhi might be a degree of clairvoyance or an ability to endure hunger and pain. The absolute siddhi is enlightenment. I’ve witnessed some examples but lack any personal attainment.

    About monastic corruption and abuse of power, no shit. Institutions are human creations and to err is human,etc. Once upon a time such hypocrisies and injustices from the spiritual world torqued my ire. Nowadays I just go my own way in a world on fire.

    I wanted to say a few words about a few things and have done so with no intentions of edifying or persuading anyone about anything.

    If one really wants to educate about spirituality and religion then you’ve gotta go the whole distance.
    Big stuff.

  8. Ian Welsh

    Never really been into Tibetan Vajrayan supremacism. Or even Mahyanna supremacism, though my early teaching was all Mahayanna (Chan.) Anti-“sutrayana/hinayana” seems rife in Western Buddhists and it makes me tired–there are huge advantages to renunciation with respect to spiritual advancement.

  9. Soredemos

    I lean very heavily toward ‘Christianity’ being essentially an invention of Saul of Tarsus, a man who never met Jesus and who was effectively just some guy who claimed to have a vision.

    The historical Yeshua ben Yosef would have been an Aramaic speaking rural preacher who came and said whatever it is he said, then was executed as an enemy of the Roman state.

    Then along came a bunch of Greek speaking weirdos, led by Saul, who offered up an increasingly mystical and abstract version of Jesus (probably getting more mystical as death for Saul approached, as an exercise in cope on his part). The tension between what many Christians have done and what Jesus actually said is because ‘Christianity’ is bolted on top of a very different historical figure.

    Though I’m sure the inquisitorial torturer could tell you he was doing it out of love. What greater expression of love could there be than to force a heretic to renounce their heresy and save their soul?

  10. mago

    I’m tired of Western Buddhists in general.
    Most carry around their PMC conditioning and mindsets, which puts me at odds with oh so many.

  11. bruce wilder

    “Weird shit” and religion raises a lot of issues around religions/ideologies mistaking the nature of human nature and/or the nature of human society.

    I’ve experienced some “weird shit” I guess — enough to discount disenchanted materialism and the kind of “brave” rationalism that insists on wearing itself like a hair shirt. As I wrote on the other thread, the ubiquity of “hypnotic” processes in constituting persuasion and belief ought to lead us to consider there is more to our natures than logic and evidence. The Enlightenment philosophes from we take our idealization of rationality were conscious of the dominant role “passions” take in human life in society.

    Not overlooking the laziness and corruption of Christian monasticism, or the hypocrisy among the righteous, I think it might be wise to also remember the hard problem the Christians were up against: a society and culture of cruel domination by the violent. Monasteries in some eras were allotted lands that could only be useful if improved by dint of great effort and attracted the peaceable and industrious. The monasteries preserved against lordly looting industrial capacity and commercial potential as well as the slender thread of learning and moral judgment. The Catholic Church encouraged alms giving and care for the poor as well as circumspect self-restraint. A number of later sects among Protestants were remarkable for honesty in business and ethical consciousness.

  12. Life and Death by Admin

    Ian, does this article inform your line of thoughts on spiritual and physical behaviour?

  13. Ian Welsh

    Hadn’t read it before today. Meaning no offense, but it seems fairly superficial. A more interesting article would have looked harder at those experiments which have survived a long time, of which there are a few.

  14. James Wheeler

    Hi Ian,

    Fascinating post.

    You might be interested in this post by John Greer who writes and is keenly interested in what you term “weird shit” – he is an experienced occultist.

    He also writes from a historical perspective and that our civilisation is entering a new era, a post rationalist era, where magical and religious thinking returns to the mainstream as reason fades away.

    I think he makes a good case myself.

    Returning to the metaphysical, I have had a number of strange experiences that have convinced me there is more to the universe than the rather rigid world of secular materialism insists upon.

    Having read plenty of Greers articles over the years, I am increasingly open to the possibility that maybe the occultists are right and there is a vast hidden world of strange entities, spirits, demons and angels out there beyond what most of us can see.

    Its a strange and unsettling thought and I’m not quite sure what to make of it. It has turned me back to my Catholic faith however as simple spiritual practises like prayers – apart from the fact I find them psychologically comforting – appear to offer some type of protection against theoretical demonic forces.

    Now, a few years ago I would have laughed at such ideas. Now, not so much. Sometimes when I watch old documentaries about the Nazis I sense dark, almost demonic forces at work.

    Were there demonic forces raised during that period (leading Nazis were involved in the occult and allegedly tried to contact the otherworld).

    I don’t know.

    But I am more open minded than I used to be and am frankly startled that you share the same feeling.

  15. Jan Wiklund

    So, what is religion? What do religions have in common?

    According to Émile Durkheim: The elementary forms of religious life, endorsed by Randall Collins: Sociological insight, there are two tings: common rites and parting the world into the sacred and the profane.

    These are, I think, perfectly legitimate activities. Common rites are the only ting that makes us into social beings instead of solitary wolfs. And we need to think about what is sacred and what is not.

    Religions tend to go awry when they intellectualise too much. When they think out (often misconceived) causes why this or that is sacred/profane. Misconceived because science proceeds continually and what was the truth of yesterday often becomes the bad joke of tomorrow. Statements about facts can never be sacred, they always have to be proven, over and over again.

    Another way of saying this is that religions go awry when intellectuals (or politicians) use religion as a tool of their own power. But this is an abuse. You don’t condemn sex because there are abusers of sex.

  16. Soredemos

    Empiricism and materialism at their core revolve around the simple concept that if something exists, you should be able to muster at least some evidence for it. The fact this concept causes such scoffing and conniptions from certain quarters is a cope because they can never offer compelling (or often even any) evidence, so they’re reduced to petulantly attacking the very idea of evidence. Asking for evidence is not an unreasonable request, like, at all. And in fact it is not something most people do with most things in their lives. It’s just certain areas where many of us apparently disengage our faculties.

    What’s funny in this is that all human mysticism has its origins in some sort of evidence gathering. People looked at something in the real world and conjured up a story to explain it. There’s a magical spirit animating fire, for example. But appeals to magic are not actual understanding, however much ‘sages’ may pretend to know what they’re talking about. There’s no understanding or even attempt at real understanding. Just stories. It’s loathsome.

    There are indeed things we do not yet fully understand. The correct course of action is to go ‘huh, strange’ and continue investigating. It is not to then appeal to magic. Because magic isn’t an explanation for anything. The annals of native and ancient ‘wisdom’ are littered with worthless non-explanation stories that have been proven false. I’m reminded of how Aristotle would simply assert various explanations for things. He was usually wrong, often hilariously so, but the guy never bother to run a single experiment.

    Writers like Greer are unfortunately very likely correct that the age of rationalism being dominant is fading. Where they’re wrong is in thinking this is a good thing. As civilization declines humanity will become gradually more credulous and stupid, allowing earnestccharlatans like Greer to assume positions for ritual power.

    (the implication with Greer, that sort of only becomes apparent after you’ve read enough of his ramblings, is that in the future people like him will be in charge and things will be better. Personally I wouldn’t trust a self-proclaimed ‘Archdruid’ to run a corner convenience store, much less anything that actually matters)

  17. mago

    Hmm. Greer. A few years ago I thought he had some useful insights, although his peak oil period was tedious and ultimately debunked.

    Somewhere along the line he went around the bend and never returned. (Personal opinion of course.) I mean he went rabid.

    Archdruid. Pretentious, no? Still he’s intelligent and has something to say and a platform from which to say it. So go man go. I stopped dialing into his world a while back.

    Greer aside, I still side with Leonard Cohen that god is alive and magic is afoot, even though I don’t believe in a personal god and will avoid explaining my view of “magic”.

    Keep swearing to avoid posting my views, but like a junkie I can’t help myself. (Cue Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks singing I Scare Myself.)
    Never mind. Just some aged free association.
    Enjoy your weekend.

  18. anonone

    The four reliances:

    1) Rely on the teaching, not the teacher.
    2) Rely on the meaning, not on the words.
    3) Rely on the definitve meaning, not on the vague meaning.
    4) Rely on your wisdom mind, not on your ordinary, judgemental mind.

    As taught by the Buddha shortly before his death.

    And don’t be fooled by magic (“weird shit”). Charlatans and fakirs know what they’re doing and how to do it.

  19. Trinity

    “religions go awry when intellectuals (or politicians) use religion as a tool of their own power.”

    And what they then do is cement in “rules” that will allow them to retain power, forever and ever, amen. And as we see constantly, these same rules never apply to those in power. It’s easy enough to rejigger yet another interpretation of the same ancient texts, saddling the powerless with both “sacredness” and ever more rules that still never apply to the empowered. The other name for all this is “corruption”.

    It’s the unchanging nature of ideologies and those who hold them constant despite all evidence to the contrary that is the problem. To me the sacred are the things that we all agree upon, and share, and should not change; ideas however should change all the time, as JW also noted above.

  20. capelin

    Count me firmly in the “yes weird shit happens” camp.
    We operate in a fraction of the/our potential.

    @Soredemos “Asking for evidence is not an unreasonable request, like, at all. And in fact it is not something most people do with most things in their lives. It’s just certain areas where many of us apparently disengage our faculties.”

    Oh, tied up with a pretty bow of superiority, with vast cultural, class, and educational assumptions of what constitutes “evidence”.

    I suspect that all of us have (daily?) experienced things that will never, ever, be “explained” by Rationalism and Western Science (speaking of religions going off the rails).

    Thinking of someone after years and then they call you; knowing when someone has died; ducks line up when statistically there’s no way they should have, etc.

    To think that we can observe and “prove” all that there is is absurd and very hubri-matic.

  21. anon y'mouse

    what is Enlightenment, what are its qualities, and show me a person who is said to have “it”.

    this is similar to the Consciousness question. it’s all about how, and by whom, it is defined.

    the only “enlightenment” i have ever seen by the practitioners of CA was this kind:

    the kind that wealthy people engage in to make themselves feel better about being wealthy, privileged enough to spend time sitting around meditating and doing yoga.

    there is a similar mode in psychology. the train of research/thought that says we can almost will ourselves out of feeling bad about the bad things that happen to us through a form of “chanting” or redirecting internal monologue (some of this is in CBT/DBT and elsewhere). hey, that’s fine if it works and if it’s trauma that wasn’t societally caused in the first place (growing up poor is trauma. growing up poor is not actually about the individual but something they deal with because society has decreed it).

    when encountering these people who never experienced similar traumas (rich people have traumas too, associated with living) saying you just need to meditate more or whatever to not feel so attached to it, well…..if it works for you fine. it doesn’t work for everyone and neither does DBT and the people it doesn’t work for are not “unEnlightened”.

    lets reduce class distinctions, especially ones based upon non-quantifiable mental states, woowoo, and unanswerable metaphysical questions. we have enough problems in the day to day with our semi-materialist philosophies separating the Worthy from the Unworthy and making the Unworthy suffer for the benefit of the Worthy without “fat lazy monks not working on their Enlightenment for our assistance”.

    and no one “needs” Enlightenment to come to certain conclusions about the society, the world, our political system and so forth. the insights gained by you or your type who gained them that way aren’t wrong, but you are wrong by insisting that those of us who don’t engage in this activity (why not Enlightenment from saying the Rosary? sorry, i don’t believe in Rosaries either but if they help you, fine) are never going to see these insights properly. it’s bunkum and it’s a story you tell yourself to make yourself feel that you have attained some greater state than those who have not.

    it’s a different, more insidious form of believing you are better than me (and my type. just using we two as the personifications of this) because you spend time in your brain in a specific way, rather than because you can afford a penthouse and a Ferrari.

    seen plenty of these ALL OVER of every flavor in CA. yeah, groovy and interesting people but almost all privileged beyond the average soul here on earth, most especially those average souls drafted to serve them and their physical needs behind various counters.

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