Truth Against the World

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Christian Belief and the Perennial Philosophy

Belief -- John Mayer

Is there anyone who ever remembers
Changing their mind from the paint on a sign?
Is there anyone who really recalls
Ever breaking record of
For something someone yelled real loud one time?
Oh, everyone believes
In how they think it oughta be
Oh, everyone believes
And they're not going easily

Belief is a beautiful armor
But makes for the heaviest sword
Like punching underwater
You never can hit who you're trying for
Some need the exhibition
And some have to know they tried
It's the chemical weapon
For the war that's raging on inside
Oh, everyone believes
From emptiness to everything
Oh, everyone believes
And no one's going quietly

We're never gonna win the world
We're never gonna stop the war
We're never gonna beat this
If belief is what we're fighting for

We're never gonna win the world
We're never gonna stop the war
We're never gonna beat this
If belief is what we're fighting for

Is there anyone you can remember
Ever surrender with their life on the line?

We're never gonna win the world
We're never gonna stop the war
We're never gonna beat this
If belief is what we're fighting for

We're never gonna win the world
We're never gonna stop the war
We're never gonna beat this
If belief is what we're fighting for

What puts a hundred thousand children in the sand?
Belief can, belief can
What puts a folded flag inside his mother's hand?
Belief can, belief can

Recently a friend of mine addressed my blog "Anthropomorphical Paradoxicus" in a "note" on Facebook. The result of this was a conversation that lasted for 10 days between my friend, what appears to be his minister (I have not verified this, but the man is a minister) and me. During the course of this conversation (which I would post here if it were not for the fact that it's 50 pages long "copy and pasted" into open office) I had to relearn a few things about faith. During the entire conversation I repeatedly ask everything about Hell and why only Christians are going to escape it in the afterlife. You see, the idea of a Hell that only non-Christians go to is a point of contention that I am unable to bypass. Here is the apologetic reasoning I received from the Christian Minister in this debate:

The Bible is without compromise, with no grey areas, saying that Hell is the destination of those who reject Christ. However, many very committed Believers/scholars are reluctant to make a firm stand about those who have never heard about Christ. (I'm one of those). Intellectual opinions must be based on at least implied evidences; Here are my reasons:

1) God is the ultimate Authority. But also, the scriptures take major strides to show God as a loving, caring father, persistently chasing us down so that we may have salvation. God " patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish" (2 Peter 3:9). His nature is 'love' as much as it is 'judgement'. Read carefully Jesus' ministry: His only harsh words were to the hypocritical religious leaders of the day.

2) Scripture says that when Jesus' body was in the grave, that the "spiritual Him" was in the "land of the dead" to witness to those who died without knowing about him. That's a big deal, and a loving, caring deal.

3) Scripture does not expressly state the issue of those who have no knowledge of Christ. It only expressly deals with those who reject Him.

4) The Bible does not expressly state this, but almost all theologians agree that God, in His love, would not allow the sufferings of Hell to the infants, young children or mentally unbalanced who die unable to grasp the knowledge of Christ.

5)There are students of the Bible (me included) who sense (based on our presumption of item 4) that God would take into account each individual's ability to respond to that bit of Truth that he was exposed to, meaning that there would be a different standard in judgement for those who had no chance of hearing the gospel than for those who have rejected it.

I'll allow my readers to digest this on their own. However, I do have a couple of pressing question since the Bible doesn't address it but most theologians agree: at what age do you move from being a child to being an adult according to these expert theologians? Is it when you are old enough to drive or is it when you are old enough to vote? Or perhaps when you are able to procreate? If you sense any anger in the above questions it's because you are keen.

I come to the window of Christianity and look back into it longingly at times. I think about how comforting it must be to believe that there is a God that loves you and wants to intervene on your behalf. How nice it must be to know that you have a purpose assigned to you by God. I think about how nice it would be to have a large group of actual local people who share this one thing with you.

This one thing, faith, is enough to form lasting bonds with people for no other reason than that you share it together. How addictive it must be to have fellowship like that in this world of electronicry. A world where many of us are forced to look for intellectual companionship online in forums because there is nobody around in actuality to fill that void. These promises occasionally bring me to that Christian window. I look back in, and I wish I could walk through the door, but the truth is that I cannot. The truth is that I am not willing to believe in something that condemns the rest of the peaceful beings in existence to a Christian Hell. The reason I am unable to believe that, besides the fact that it would be completely unjust, is that it's not true at all. Let me give a powerful example to illustrate what I mean. The first person I will describe is the most heinous I could come up with.

Imagine a pedophile rapist who spent his entire free adult life rapping, torturing, and murdering small children. He did this for years to an untold amount of children until he was caught and thrown in prison. This pedophile, rapist, torturing, murderer ended up getting lung cancer from smoking cigarettes and drinking hooch for 20 years in prison. The entire 20 years in prison he spent dreaming of the day he could get out to rape, torture, and murder a small child just one more time. His sociopathic mind longed day in and day out to just have one more chance with a helpless child. His dying epiphany was that Jesus was the only way for eternal salvation and redemption. In his last moments of life he honestly and sincerely accepts Jesus into his heart. He is rewarded with eternal bliss in Heaven for his dying epiphany.

On the other hand, there is a compassionate and loving Buddhist monk. He spends his entire life meditating on such things as compassion for all beings, joy, and peace. He vows to continue reincarnating into Samsara (this reality) until all sentient beings are freed from the suffering that is existence. He zealously practices the Dharma worshiping compassion. He advocates for peace. He is the Dali Lama. He dies. He is rewarded for his compassion with eternal damnation and suffering of unimaginable agony for all of eternity in Hell. Somehow this is the action of a loving God according to Christians.

It is socially taboo in this Christian nation to make them face the facts of their beliefs. They believe it without reason. They will delude themselves, and they will try to delude you with how this all makes sense and is loving and just. It's not loving and just. In my above example the pedophile rapist murderer is clearly evil and deserves a stint in hell. The monk does not deserve to be punished for his undying compassion. A God that would do such a thing is anything but loving. What kind of a sadistic jokster God would set things up like that? Why would anybody want to believe that? No matter what justification you tell yourself about this particular conundrum, you are still the one who decides that you are going to believe it. By your belief you are condemning the non-Chrisitan world to hell.

In the Christian view, anybody who thinks that the above scenario is unjust is seen as following the ways of Lucifer. That's what Lucifer did with God in their eyes. He decided for himself what he was going to do. In Lucifer's case this was hubris. He wanted to be greater than God and his actions had nothing to do with compassion for all beings. His actions were in service of his ego. The Buddhist monks life is situated in such a way that it's primary objective is to no longer contribute to suffering of another being in any way shape or form. The only thing one can control in this world is one's self. Therefore the best way to help eliminate suffering is to no longer contribute to it by your actions. That is the discipline of a practicing Buddhist Monk. That is the entire point of what they are doing. They believe the way to no longer suffer or to contribute to suffering is to follow the ways of the Dharma. There is nothing self serving or egotistical about this practice.

To eat from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was against God's prime directive. To know and to want to know was man's main mistake according to this paradigm. Christian's love to use the parent child analogy when talking about God and man. God is our parent and so we should look at him from the perspective of children. Children are not supposed to question what their parents say, they are to simply obey. This makes sense because adults know more about reality then children do, and they tend to hurt themselves when left to their own devices. Children don't have the reasoning ability of an adult. Often reasoning in an adult way will be unproductive due to this. The child's brain is still developing, but at one point their brains will fully develop into adult brains. At that point they have the hardware to decide for themselves. Their parents should still know better, if they are wise people, but it's not necessarily the case and in most cases, these days at least, the parents themselves are still like children. Yet, from the perspective of a child who wants to know “why” about something they can't possibly understand, it makes sense for them to just learn to first listen to their parents and then to try and understand. If they can't understand, oh well, go play. However, at some point the child becomes an adult, hopefully, and part of that process is evaluating belief. To do that the once child, now blossoming adult, must analyze what he/she knows to be truth.

So Lucifer's great deed was in tempting Eve to eat from the Tree of Knowing. In her ignorance she got Adam to eat as well and they learned of their nakedness. Their heads were pulled from the sand and they realized all of the suffering in the world. Gone were the days of frolicking in the Garden of Eden all willy nilly. Now existence meant hard work, pain, and suffering. This was man's fault? Like bad children Adam and Eve disobeyed their parent and due to that one act of misbehavior they were to suffer the torments of earthly life. Why is wanting to know such a bad thing? If knowing is such a bad thing than why did he create us?

There was another tree in the Garden. The Tree of Life. It enabled Adam to be immortal. The act of knowing caused Adam to be banished from the garden and therefore he was no longer able to eat from the Tree of Life and he became mortal. Buddha had a tree as well...a Bodhi tree. This tree encompasses both tree's in the Garden of Eden. It is the knowing of reality that causes all of the suffering. Yet this knowing is simply a result of being conscious with a body that receives signals from the physical world. In this Buddhist symbolism Mara takes the place of Lucifer. Mara is the great tempter. His job is to keep the Buddha enthralled by worldly pleasure. In a scene similar to Lucifer tempting Jesus with worldly power, Mara sends an onslaught of temptations the Buddha's way. The Buddha, steadfast in his quest for ultimate Truth, ignores Mara's offerings. Mara tries everything to capture the Buddha and to knock him off of his pedestal of intentional concentration. Like a razor the Buddha cut's through all of Mara's lies. Mara attacks from every possible avenue, lust, anger, fear, hunger, pain, intoxication, fantastic mind blowing hallucinations designed to sweep him away in mindless entertainment, and finally bliss. Anything to keep the Buddha from seeing his true nature. Anything to keep him from the truth. Just like Lucifer to Jesus and Adam. The Buddha's mindfulness remains firm and in a flash of brilliance his mind becomes like a diamond and he breaks through the delusions of physical and worldly pleasures. He destroys fear and attachment. He explodes outwards in all directions and in one instant is reborn in the truth of his Buddha nature.

Adam and Eve fall to Lucifer's temptation of worldly pleasure. It wasn't so much that the “knowing” was wrong as it is symbolic of Adam's turning away from the secret of the Tree of Life. Becoming enthralled by worldly, corporeal reality sets this wheel of suffering in motion. Losing touch and forgetting about the Tree of Life, which gives immortality, is the original sin. The Buddha regains his knowledge of the Tree of Life and once again eats from it becoming immortal and enlightened. The Buddha was just a man, just like you and I. He never claimed to be anything other than a simple man. He found the path back to Eden and the Tree of Life. He made it his life's quest to point people back to Eden, back to immortality and away from suffering. The Dhama is the way back to the Tree of Life. The Dharma is simply the truth about the causation of suffering and the antidotes to it.

The story of the Garden of Eden and Buddha's enlightenment is really the same story. The state of enlightenment, our Buddha nature, is God. You can't know God and remain attached to worldly things. The Tree of Knowledge of good and evil is the knowledge of duality. It's representative of man’s enslavement to duality. We ate from the worldly lies of sensory pleasure and pain and therefore forgot about our true nature as spiritual beings. We bought into the false promises of the world of man. True happiness does not come from owning things, money, or hallucinated stability. The nature of reality is that everything is transient and subject to change. Attempting to find happiness by grasping onto transient things is like buying a ticket on the wheel of suffering. Hell is as far away from God as you can get. Being attached to this world is as far away from your Buddha nature as you can get. The two are the same.

The story of Jesus is the promised way back to the Garden and the Tree of Life. Jew's are still waiting for this way back and this is where the two camps part ways. Jesus is spiritual redemption. Jesus is God's offering to mankind for a way back to Eden. A way to Heaven which is symbolically no different than Enlightenment or Nirvana in the Buddhist perspective. I believe Jesus was fundamentally saying the same thing as the Buddha. That message is simply this, “follow me back to Heaven.” In Buddhism that “Heaven” is “Enlightenment,” but both are the same thing, no suffering. That state is achieved by transcending duality. This truth is known as the “Perennial Philosophy.” From Wikipedia:

Perennial philosophy is the philosophical concept, which states that each of the world’s religious traditions share a single truth. Perennial philosophy asserts that there is a single divine foundation of all religious knowledge, referred to as the universal truth. Each world religion, independent of its cultural or historical context, is simply a different interpretation of this knowledge. World religions including, but not limited to, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Taoism, Confucianism, Shinto, Sikhism and Buddhism, are all derived from the same universal truth. Although the sacred scriptures of these world religions are undeniably diverse and often oppose each other, each world religion has been formed to fit the social, mental and spiritual needs of their respective epoch and culture. Therefore, perennial philosophy maintains that each world religion has flourished from the foundation of the same universal truth, making these differences superficial and able to be cast aside to find religion’s deeper spiritual meaning.”

Here again this is basically the difference between esoteric and exoteric belief. Those who understand the truth behind the above paragraph about the Perennial Philosophy will understand that there are many paths to God. There are many labels for the concept of God. In fact there are as many ways to God as there are cultures in existence.

During the course of the debate I spoke of at the beginning of this blog, I was rewarded with this nugget of compassion from the minister:

Pretty much all I am understanding in your quest is Burger King. I want to order up a faith that allows everyone to believe what they want to without consequence, one that does not require me to respond to an authority other than my own desires, one that allows me to be in control without submission. And fries.

I think your order's ready.

The sad truth is that most Christian's are operating from an exoteric perspective. They see the stories in the Bible as what happened in a literal way. It happened exactly as the Bible dictates. They do not look into the esoteric meaning of the book. This is very pronounced in the preaching of Revelations and the Apocalypse ushering in the end of times. Reality is cyclical and history repeats itself. The nature of reality is dictated by this. All things are born, grow, mature, and die. Revelations is nothing more than than a poetic, and very symbolic, telling of the death stage of everything.

For me, the most frustrating characteristic about today's typical Christian is their unwillingness to grow up and out of this exoteric mechanism of belief. It's the second decade of the 21st century. It's time to grow out of this childish paradigm. The world will never get any better if people are not willing to grow up. Just because somebody reads a different book than you, or prays in a different way, does not make them deserving of everlasting torment in Hell. If you want to stay attached to the analogy of God as parent and we as children than you will never grow to be a responsible parent. It's time to grow up and leave the childish beliefs behind.

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