Sunday, 2 October 2016

One

It was wholly unexpected.

40 years ago I craved such an experience but had given up on the idea; the path was strewn with paradoxes and deceptions; it appeared to require that I become a far better person than I could ever hope to be. And was any of it true anyway?

But whilst on holiday, preceded by a beautiful dream and an experience of the night sky 2 days before, it came. I had an experience of cosmic Oneness which put me in an ecstasy; the ground of all being was divine bliss, a bliss that is infinite and ever-lasting. I don’t know how long this experience lasted but it must have been about half an hour. It has transformed my perception of everything.

I wrote the following:

I felt Truth kiss me in the night; her kiss was pure and infinitely Light;
In that moment she taught me this: “The essence of Nature is infinite bliss.”
Both the I and the Me obscure Divine Reality,
But Beauty and Truth combined illuminate the mind.

What I experienced was cosmic unity, eternal and infinite. It was an experience shared by many mystics, saints, and poets. In his book, “The Varieties of Religious Experience”, William James quotes the words of Dr Bucke, a psychiatrist who had such experiences himself and studied those of others:

“The prime characteristic of cosmic consciousness is a consciousness of the cosmos, that is, of the life and order of the universe. Along with the consciousness of the cosmos there occurs an intellectual enlightenment which alone would place the individual on a new plane of existence-would make him almost a member of a new species. To this is added a state of moral exaltation, an indescribable feeling of elevation, elation, and joyousness, and a quickening of the moral sense, which is fully as striking, and more important than is the enhanced intellectual power. With these come what may be called a sense of immortality, a consciousness of eternal life, not a conviction that he shall have this, but the consciousness that he has it already.” [p.384 from the chapter on Mysticism]

One thing I have written about frequently on this blog is the paradigm shift from the Ptolemaic geocentric model of the universe to the Copernican. A shift which I often liken to our need to be less ego-centric. Ironically, it was by stepping back into a pre-Copernican view of the universe that the ground was prepared for the experience of cosmic Oneness. I saw a devotional universe in which all things were participants and expressions of the same blissful order.

The question obviously arises as to whether this is a special form of perception or a special form of deception.

My view is that it is a form of perception that occurs when the normal ego-based consciousness yields to a non-egoic form of consciousness. Instead of seeing things from the point of view of our limited, temporal ego we see them from the point of view of a universal self or non-ego.

This is why we cannot will these experiences. The will is of the ego and the ego is precisely that which needs to get out of the way.

I’ve been a big fan of Sam Harris and have dabbled with his advice on meditation. This video was an eye-opener for me (payment is required but for me it was money well spent) and his recommendation of D. E. Harding’s, “On having no head” was highly useful for developing the right kind of focus (away from the ego).

The key feature of this non-egoic perception is Oneness, a sense that all is one, one is all and that there is absolutely no separation from it.

The Third Patriarch of Zen puts it this way:

“When the ten thousand things are viewed in their oneness,
We return to the origin and remain where we have always been…
One in all,
All in One-
If only this is realized,
No more worry about not being perfect!
When Mind and each believing mind are not divided,
And undivided are each believing mind and Mind,
This is where words fail,
For it is not of the past, present or future.”

Quoted in Aldous Huxley’s “Perennial Philosophy” (p.89 - Chapter “God in the World”)

If the ego stands in the way of such experiences how are we to overcome it? This is the question of all true religion.

Goethe said,

“From the compulsion that all creatures binds, who overcomes himself his freedom finds.”

The “himself” here is the ego.

I am not a Christian and have been agnostic regarding God but I can see how many of the teachings of Jesus represent genuine guidance towards the Divine Reality. I’ve never understood the doctrine that he died to save us from our sins; it strikes me as a genuine misunderstanding.

“For it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” Luke 18:25

My reading of this is that the rich man has an augmented ego. He is self-satisfied and proud. It is this that blocks his path to the Kingdom of God, the experience of Oneness, which he can only reach via an absence of ego.

The dominance of the ego has to be overcome. This is scary for us because from an egoic point of view the ego is all that we are. It is vital to understand Jesus’ emphasis on humility and his own profoundly humble example.

This is also why Pride is the number one deadly sin. You’ll notice it is not murder. The deadly sins are really concerned with what blocks our way to the Divine Reality and they do this because they are all aspects of egoism, and Pride quintessentially so. Pride is that quality of puffed-up-ness which prevents us from passing through the eye of the needle.

The great Christian thinker, C.S. Lewis writes, in Mere Christianity, that pride is the "anti-God" state, the position in which the ego and the self are directly opposed to God: "Unchastity, anger, greed, drunkenness, and all that, are mere fleabites in comparison: it was through Pride that the devil became the devil: Pride leads to every other vice: it is the complete anti-God state of mind." Pride is understood to sever the soul from God, as well as His life-and-grace-giving Presence. (from Wikipedia “The Seven Deadly Sins” see Hubris.)

Other examples of Jesus teaching humility are:
- “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”
- “Address the mote in your own eye before the beam in another’s”
- “Blessed are the meek”
- “Blessed are the poor in spirit”
- “Blessed are the pure in heart”

Humility is the prime cardinal virtue. It describes that state of the ego as softened and pliable like water. In this state it has transparency and the ability to allow other things to pass through it; things like light and heavenliness. It is the truly religious throughout the centuries who have cultivated this state.

Beauty has the power to soften and sometimes overwhelm the ego giving rise to powerful experiences of Oneness.

The Seven Deadly Sins are correctives to egoism.

In Milton’s Paradise Lost, Lucifer becomes the fallen angel on account of his pride. Pride severs his relationship with the divine order and precipitates his fall from grace. The egoic and non-egoic are on a see-saw, the more one is up the more the other is down.

Conversely, in Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice we experience the uplift afforded by the overcoming of pride by love.

Which brings me to Muhammad. I don’t know what happened to Muhammad in his early days as a religious teacher but during the later Medinan period he is clearly aligned with the ego, the anti-God state.

Islam became an entirely egotistical religion, almost a religion of the ego and the will, and it was overseen by an egotistical God of arbitrary will, summed up by the ubiquitous boast of “Allahu Akbar” – our god is greater.

Muhammad’s intense pride can be seen in his inability to bear the criticisms and mockery of his detractors. He therefore had them assassinated.

He identified the goals of his own will with the directives of divine will. Divinity in his mind was almighty and arbitrary, a supreme ego akin to his own. The Islam of Muhammad is a massive ego trip.

Whereas Jesus illuminates the world by reflecting the light of divinity, Muhammad darkens it with his nefarious, egotistical will.

That Muhammad divided the world into those who accepted his prophetic status and those who did not was evidence enough of his falsehood. The attribute of Divinity is Oneness not Twoness.

The Deadly Sins of the Ego are: Pride, Gluttony, Avarice, Sloth, Envy, Anger, Lust.

Muhammad appealed to his followers in terms that would satisfy their egos and the deadly sins. The promise of worldly wealth and grandeur; the promise of sex slaves to satisfy their lust; the opportunity to get the better of those who were more successful; the promise of an afterlife modelled entirely upon the appetites of the ego: virgins, wine, unlimited sensual pleasures.

He raved about the torments that would be suffered by those who failed to accept him and continually encouraged his followers to gloat on them, indeed one of the great pleasures of the afterlife would be to see them suffer. This is egoism pure and simple.

He taught that “those who believe” should hate everyone else: Divisive not unifying.

I believe you will search the Koran in vain for a scrap of spiritual guidance. This is because, for all its bloated pretensions, it is a book of the ego not one of divinity.

One of the greatest teachings of Jesus was to guard against self-righteousness. Islam gives its followers much of the appearance of spirituality. Slavish devotion, obsessive rituals, fasting, prayer, modesty of dress, external cleanliness, but the inner fruits of its doctrines are pride and contempt for others. This is a wholly unspiritual outcome.

With the doctrine of voluntarism, Islam has even developed a metaphysics of egoism. According to this metaphysics, no event occurs in the universe that is not specifically willed by Allah. Allah is not subject to any constraint such as the laws of Nature, to suggest so is to suggest his absolute will is not absolutely powerful. "Inshallah" is the appeal to Allah's supreme egoism.

Because it has no spiritual truth it has to resort to force and coercion. Devoid of truth it deploys the ultimate fallacy – the argument of the stick (argumentum ad baculum).

The Koran is not one of the world’s documents of the spiritual life. It is rather a testament to the egoism of one man – Muhammad.

Muhammad, whose ego was so lustful he married a girl of six and found a “divine” reason (a “revelation”) saying that he should have his cousin’s wife, Zainab.

This is not the behaviour of a spiritual guide but of a wholly unspiritual egoist. Muslims should be told this in no uncertain terms whilst they have time to rectify their lives in accordance with better principles.

I think the fundamental idea behind the Islamic project is to create a sacred space that is unassailable; logically, a world dominated by Islam would be unassailable. The only snag is it wouldn’t be sacred. Islam as it is now constituted is a massive ego-trip. Ego-trips aren’t sacred.

Islam has burst through the centuries building exponentially upon the first ejaculation of Muhammad’s rapacious ego. That is really all it is; an elaborate extension of his ego.

Islam now stands face to face with a decadent de-Christianized West. Our politically correct culture has descended into a farce of ego protection wherein certain groups of people are protected from the beneficial pain of corrective truth – a dismal fact that ensures our descent into ever greater pretense and untruth.

There is a grain of goodness in political correctness in so far as those who are politically correct are often trying to protect those they see as weaker than themselves. We should guard against the pride that can grow from being better educated, better qualified, better mannered, or better financed than others but the game of PC has become an absurd circus of protecting the egos of others from harsh truths. We know truth when we hear it; when know it when we see it (though we’ll often turn away quickly). It has an undeniable resonance. Those people would be far better off left unprotected that they might feel the force of truth to diminish their egos. They would then, less full of pride, be beacons of truth themselves.

The Christian preoccupation with not straying into egoism has an echo in the orientation of the cultural left. The left is always referring us back to our own cultural failings when we point out the failings of other cultures. Political correctness is to some degree a corrective against cultural egoism; likewise the constant reiteration of tu quoque arguments: “what about the Crusades”, “what about the slave trade”, ”what about colonialism” etc.

Where there might have been an element of nobility in this tendency it is also a great falsifier. Truth must prevail. Ignoring the faults of others whilst constantly inflating our own may feel like a kind and noble thing to do but it has the awful effect of falsifying reality and energizing the egoism of people whose culture already renders them proud and contemptuous of others.

And yes, there is much to be said for concentrating on putting our own house in order. However, we cannot do that if some egotistical savage has destroyed the house.

One of the easiest forms of pride to fall into is in-group supremacy. Here again, the Left is frequently urging a corrective but it becomes overly negative towards the in-group and overly flattering towards out-groups. When this flattery is directed towards those of a supremacist culture it makes their cultural egotism even more bloated.

Western hedonism may be little better in terms of educating us away from the ego but it does have the merit of leaving individuals at liberty and not inducing intolerant expressions of piety - although the new piety of political correctness is a strong contender. The culture of the West has also allowed the possibility for cultural self-criticism to exist. This is a direct product of the non-egoic teachings of Jesus. Christianity, being a true expression of divinity, puts us on guard with respect to our ego, both the individual and the collective form.

The question is now whether we can regain enough awareness of what we are really about to return to non-hedonistic, non-egoic terms of existence and prevent a worldwide slide into the abyss of Islamic egotistical totalitarianism.

4 comments:

  1. What an incredible essay. Thank you for sharing it. That you have kept your awesome spiritual experience fresh and treasure it as the priceless gift it is is great karma. Never let it dim!

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  2. And perhaps you’ve seen this, but this “ego quoque” adaptation of tu quoque is clever:

    http://1389blog.com/2011/02/28/the-tu-quoque-fallacy-a-rhetorical-tool-used-by-the-pro-islam-tools/

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    Replies
    1. Thank you. I will look. It sounds very interesting. And many thanks for your other comment, it is very warm and encouraging.

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    2. I had a look. It's very, very good. Hats off to that writer!

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