Leo's Blog: Infinite Insights — Page 4
One reason that religion persists is because it provides genuine psychological benefits to the practitioner. It is the original self-help. To those skeptics who dismiss religion so quickly by saying, "But it's just a bunch of fairy tales" — the only way you can say that is because you lack experience with it, and so you misunderstand it. You misunderstand it, but not in the way you think. The reality is, there's no way in hell a collection of purely fabricated stories could survive for such a long time. Religion survives because it WORKS!
It's because it works that it becomes a problem. It's because it works that people aren't so eager to abandon it as your models would predict. People feel the positive effects and get seduced into thinking that everything in the religion is true because of the psychological or spiritual benefits they feel. And then that is take as evidence of the religion's exclusivity: "My religion must be true because look! Look at all these great benefits to my life!"
The problem is not that the benefits are not real — they are REAL! The problem is that the benefits are not exclusive — but people hold them as exclusive. This cannot be seen without a more experienced, more cosmopolitan meta-perspective. It's not possible to see the universal psychological and spiritual principles at work in a religious tradition without practice and study of other traditions and non-religious self-help techniques. If you do undertake such a study, you will see the common threads unpinning all traditions, from Mormonism to Islam to Judaism to psychoanalysis to Yoga to Scientology.
But the false exclusivity that many religious adherents subscribe to becomes a huge burden. Religion becomes dangerous when it feeds tribalism. ANY ideology becomes dangerous when it feeds tribalism. And virtually all ideologies do!
How many ideologies or religious traditions say: "We don't care which other traditions you study or practice. In fact, let us help you study the vast diversity of ideas available in the psycho-spiritual marketplace."?
Ha! Good luck finding an ideology like that!
How can we tell if an ideology is dangerous? Very simple. Just ask, "Is it feeding tribalism? It is putting itself on a pedestal?" Is it encouraging tolerance and unity with self and other, or separation of self from other?
"Sometimes learning a fact is enough to make an entire series of corroborating details, previously unrecognized, fall into place." — Jorge Luis Borges
A quote I feel I was looking for for at least a decade, without knowing I've been looking for it.
And yet, here it is!
It perfectly describes the subtle phenomena of intuition developing a bigger picture "behind-the-scenes". Intuition is like magic. It's capable of creating these spontaneous assemblages of big picture understanding, as long as you take care to feed it lots of diverse raw data. I've wanted to articulate this phenomena for a long time but wasn't sure how to put my finger on it. What amazed me was that Borges articulated it within a single sentence!
Imagine that in the beginning the universe was a giant, smooth, hollow rubber balloon — a pliable sphere. Now imagine this membrane gets a convolution or deformation on it. It sticks in or sticks out a bit. And this convolution gets its own convolution, and so on. Pretty quickly you've got what looks like a complex "object" sitting on the surface of this sphere. And now this process happens at thousands, millions, billions, trillions of different places on the sphere, giving the appearance of trillions of complex "objects". But from the big picture, everything is just one membrane. Every object is cut from the same cloth so to speak. Except the cloth is not even cut. It's just one elaborately involuted sheet.
Look around you and try to see the world in this way.
Look at your coffee table, your lamp, your couch, your car, your spouse, your cat or dog, your hands, the tree outside your window — and notice that it isn't separate from you — it's all YOU! Everything you see is one intricate membrane, or "thing". The individuality of "objects" is a second-order emergent phenomena — a sort of illusion. At the first-order, it's all like just one membrane.
Now you start to get a taste of what mystics means when they say everything is one. But it's still only intellectual for you. You haven't truly grasped it yet as REALITY.
Life is a school, a training ground. You're here to raise the quality of your consciousness. The sad part it, most people don't even know it. It takes many years of stumbling around in the dark just to learn that life is a school! Most people don't recognize this consciously. They learn lessons randomly, not proactively. But once you recognize this consciously, you're operating on a whole new level. Now you know that the aim of everything is growth. And now you take your growth into your own hands. It's sort of like moving up from high school to university. In university you're expected to take your learning into your own hands. Teachers don't force you to do homework or study. You gotta be proactive and self-motivated.
Dreams can be used for growth. If you see your whole life as a school or training ground for raising the quality of your consciousness, your dreams become just another opportunity for that. In your dreams, your true colors are revealed. Dreams reveal your BEING level. If you're scared or misbehave in your dreams, that's telling you where you're still rough around the edges, where you need more polish. If a fear keeps recurring in your dreams, that means you gotta learn the lesson after you wake up, and set the right intention for next time.
As you successfully spiritually purify yourself, your dreams should become less and less neurotic, and less and less terrifying, until you literally start to merge into the absolute in your sleep!
Credit: Thomas Campbell
It's a scandal that mainstream notions of reality have still not factored in discoveries from quantum mechanics and general relativity from over 100 years ago! But an even greater scandal is that mainstream thinking hasn't factored in discoveries from 2,000 years of epistemology. Epistemology isn't even on the radar of the mainstream. It's not even taught in schools! This is the great scandal: we get 12 years of mathematics training, and 12 years of history training, but 0 years of epistemology training. How different the world would be if kids were forced to do epistemology rather than math.
Imagine what it was like to be alive 2,000 years ago. Ignore what your material life would be like and instead imagine what your epistemic position would be. What would be your inner understanding of what reality is? It'd be totally different than humans conceive of it today. Everything would have a feeling of the unknown about it. Every day you'd get up and wonder: "What are human beings doing here? What the hell is this place?!" You'd wonder that because everyone around you would be just as clueless as you. There were fewer answers at your disposal back then.
In a sense it was much easier for philosophers 2,000 years ago to do true philosophy because they were not as locked into paradigms of religion, science, mathematics, consumerism, culture, etc. Simply because those things all had to be created at some point. We take for granted that these things were not a part of life 2,000 years ago, or if they were, they played a significantly different role. Maybe that's why 2,500 years ago was the heyday of Western philosophy. The world appeared more mystical and unknown back then, and that was actually true to nature.
Now we have all these excellent models of reality which ironically calcify the mind. A perfect example of: the better the model, the bigger the problem. 2,000 years ago was an intellectual wild west, a no man's land. Of course one of the downsides to this radical openness and uncertainty was a lot of superstitious theorizing. And the greatest downside was that people didn't have the great advantage of being able to study history — the massive intellectual blunders that would result in the next 2,000 years from sloppy or rigid thinking. But then again, that is only an advantage if its made use of. Most thinkers today don't really appreciate these historical blunders and haven't learned their lessons.