Greater Than the Mystery of Death

Since I’ve been writing I’ve gotten some interesting comments. Some are conventional Christians who don’t seem to “get” what I’m doing. They either don’t read or misunderstand what I’m writing. Truly, they are stuck in narrow ideas of what is right and what is to be believed, and any other, any strange type of thought is basically Satan. Others are different, their polar opposite, as in, “I don’t believe in the fairy in the sky.” And this, which inspires the writing here: that the idea of God, etc., is “a bunch of mythological stories that have no place in 2015”. This side… it is more of what I can relate to. And I think I have an answer to its line of argument. I do not have an response to the other side, those who are stuck in doctrine, what traditional religion affords. In my experience they cannot be reasoned with, for they think that God is with them. But the atheists: these most likely have had religion pumped into them, and have had cause to reject it. Yes, they can be pig headed, too, but I think it is with them that Jesus himself would have sat with. And if the conventional Christians asked why, it would be, “The ones who need a doctor aren’t the healthy but the sick.” [Mark 2:17]

First let’s look at why conventional Christians are so annoying (including Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, who actually bring the Annoying to where you live). They can be forgiven, if you think about it. In their mind, the only way that anyone will go to Heaven when you die, the only way anyone can be “saved”, is if they accept the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God and that he came back from the dead on the third day after his crucifixion. Maybe one might also add that we’re waiting for him to come back. So in being “annoying” as I’ve said, in their mind, their imposing their beliefs on you is the greatest thing that they can do, because the possibility exists that with their proselytizing that they are saving your immortal soul from an eternity in the flames of Hell. At points, I have taken to be of the Annoying. But I snapped out of it, and my reason is scriptural: Jesus said, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him.” [John 6:44] I would find other reasons, later.

So, am I positing that the traditional notions of how salvation works—that the mechanisms are not in fact what they have been believed to be? Or even further, is the thought itself about God and Jesus an archaic notion that we have outgrown? Can we evolve religious thought to the point where they are relevant to the here and now, some two millennia after the Blessed One left the building? One wonders if we are not working along the lines of the Ancient Aliens mode of thought. Basically, when all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail. I watch that show, and it seems for every single “extraordinary” occurrence, we invoke the idea that ancient extraterrestrials are the most likely cause. Science teaches us that we should suspend judgment until we have verifiable evidence that a certain thing is true. The claims of many religions—are they a part of the same general conversation as those claiming that the ancient gods were actually aliens from a distant star? Some skeptics call themselves “Pastafarians”, and they say their god is the Flying Spaghetti Monster, telling you that your belief in “higher powers” are just as ridiculous. Are we at something of a crisis point in religion? For to any awake spiritualist, the FSM people really do have a point.

The last crisis in God, in my reckoning, happened to the Jews in 586 BC. This was the beginning of the Babylonian captivity, when the great temple built by Solomon was destroyed—where in fact the Jew’s God, Yahveh, was supposed to have had His dwelling on earth. But instead of that being the end of their whole belief system (for it usually was thought that if one people defeated another, it was one god triumphing over another), their faith, in fact, became stronger. Much stronger. Before, though they professed to only worship Yahveh, there has been found in the archeology of where they lived, many idols—of other gods. But after their exile in Babylon? Zip. None. They believed it was because of those other gods that they were allowed to be so captured, so they paid attention to that first commandment: “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” And that was the other point: it was actually God acting through the Babylonians as His intermediaries that God brought judgment upon them. Yahveh was not only now the God of the Jews, He was the God over everyone. And that was how it played out in the last crisis.

Perhaps this new crisis doesn’t seem anywhere near as severe as that last one. This one I would say has its source in the repercussions of the Enlightenment. When Nietzsche famously said, “God is dead.” This was when we stopped believing in fairy tales, one might put it. Rationality had gotten in vogue. It was as if we had been carrying a load, going down the road we had always been going down, when suddenly we asked, “Why are we doing this?” And sought instead to unburden ourselves. We looked at the idea of God, and of religion, and a lot of us decided that it didn’t make sense. Not anymore. Not when we had better ideas of why things were they way they were. We started seeing more and more naturalists, those who saw explanations for things in natural order as opposed to “because God”. It has been, so far, a very fruitful way of looking at the world, a view that has given us our current state of science and technology. And so there we have it, why that person had deigned to remark that the idea of God had no place in this current age, well past the Enlightenment. We should stop looking for that fairy in the sky.

This is the crisis now. As Julian Huxley put it, “Operationally, God is beginning to resemble not a ruler, but the last fading smile of a cosmic Cheshire Cat.” He does seem to have a point, no? Who used to cause lightning? God. Now? It’s just a large charge that travels that path you see, usually from the ground up. What used to be there when you looked up? God in His Heaven. Now? God is definitely not looking down on us from there. There’s mostly empty space, sad to report. We have moved, most of us who still believe, we have moved the “real” Heaven into a completely separate dimension, which mortal eyes seldom travel to. The functions and trappings of God have been invaded… by science, it would appear. Or has it? Couple interesting points, one being that when Jesus ascended into the sky, he disappeared into a cloud; he did not do a “rocket man” sort of stunt and keep going. And the other is that Paul says there is the seen world, and the unseen world, and whereas the seen world is temporary, the unseen world was the one that would keep going. Things like these two are mysteries that can perhaps survive whatever science throws our way. Especially if science can actually make sense of them as they are described in our holy books.

But maybe they have a point. Maybe a God who tells us to kill every last single living being in a city because of their sinful ways—maybe that kind of God we can do without. Maybe it was good way to go back then, when we were without even a Roman road system in place, but now? We don’t look so adoringly at whoever it is that has us kill people, for whatever reason. But nowadays, if He’s not telling us to enact things like that, what is it that He is doing, way “up there”? Why exactly do we need Him, again? Maybe we need another way of looking at things. Could it be, that as He abandons the closer spheres, as He seems to move out of our focus, does He draw us—our imagination—out into the far expanse in following where He retreats to? Let those who have eyes see. So, as we look back to what happened in the previous crisis, is this the next quantum leap that we utilize to solve things, to rescue God from irrelevance, a natural next vault? The idea of God, we to place it properly in the frame of new paradigms. Because however far out we go, might we find that He is already there, having waited for us to figure it out.

Even were there no mystery to the world at all, you know there still would be one that will defy all efforts to codify? We ask, what is love? For the most profound words that ever was written, anywhere, throughout history and into the furthest future, is the minimal sentence in 1 John: “God is love.” C. S. Lewis wrote about that phrase that we should understand it doesn’t mean, “love is God,” but I beg to differ. I think that that is precisely what it means. As Oscar Wilde put it, “The mystery of love is greater than the mystery of death.” There is nothing real but love, no matter how tangible that thing might be. Now, seeing that we say of some phenomena that it is not “because God”, then God retreats from the science—when there is no mystery, there is not God, it seems—but that most profound statement will ensure that there will always be somewhere God has His space: “God is love.” Because if you say you know what love is, I will ever say you are a fool in your simplicity. And that is not the good simple, for it is that love itself is so simple, we’ll never understand it.

As far as God’s seeming brutality, one looks to the Book of Job for an answer, for one thing. It is Satan who brings disaster to Job, but at the end, when God finally speaks, He merely asks, who are you to judge Me? Satan is not mentioned at all. It might most possibly be that something was going on “behind the scenes”, as it were, in the seeming cruelty behind some of God’s decrees. There is certainly mystery there, and we may never fully understand it. And look at the Son of God: was not he himself cruelly put to death? He says that he is doing the Father’s will, yet is it not the Devil who orchestrates the whole affair? Can we see some sort of pattern here? God means for all this to happen! But—and this is an important but—He knows how all of this will turn out! Out of the horrors that avail themselves of this world, the pain will have an end. It is so written. And back to where God directly orders to kill: I will not cop out and say that God makes up for it to the victims of those orders. There is another possibility, that that, along with other stories about God in the Bible, were not meant literally that they happened as written. Perhaps another cop out. My thoughts: He works with the tools that exist.

His message to the early Hebrews, by ordering mass killing? I am no one to be trifled with. This establishes Him among the ancients in a way that nothing else could. Yes, to our modern sensibilities it is cruel, perhaps evil to do things in this way, but do we call the lion who kills his prey evil? Who are we to judge Him? Back to Job again. Where were you when He fluctuated the original wave that caused matter to coalesce in just that certain way, for the stars to align in subtle gravity, back at the Big Bang? Because as God became larger in the first crisis of faith, in this one, He takes His final size: greater than the billions upon billions of galaxies where in each one are billions upon billions of stars, each burning nuclear light—all that is a mote in His eye. Do you understand the concept: infinity? You know, you can; it’s in those three words: God is love. Isn’t that His way, though? Love is the chiefest and best way to know infinity. To know the mind of God.

It is what Lucifer failed to understand: you cannot kill God. And as our perspective on the Supreme Being shifts, so that He appears different to us than in generations past, one might say that we have now more or less a “grown up” picture of Him. When this race, the human race, was young, we were fed with milk. And now we are ready for the solid food. We are finally at the point where we understand what it means: civilization. Everyone as equals, with all due basic human rights. We have (right now!) the means by which the entire world may be fed. Verily, the prophet quoth: “The Beginning is near!” And perhaps it needs to get worse before it gets better, but it will get better. Now, watch as the idea of God grows up, for it may be that we do not need Him in the Age of Gold that tantalizingly peeks out at us at the horizon’s edge, but the world will only make sense if He is in it. God is waiting for us to understand the world enough that we don’t use Him as a placeholder. To see what it is, His true function: God is love. Even if you don’t believe in Him at all.



If you like what’s written here, check out my book, Memoirs from the War in Heaven.

What the War in Heaven Looks Like on Earth

This is the great war, as viewed from sea level: sense versus nonsense. That’s it. Maybe there’s more? Read on. The nonsense is generated for some private end, usually for the money, sometimes for the power, a lot of times for both (having one generally gets the other). It usually turns out that there is no other conspiracy than these. Yes, we’re in it between good vs. evil, but the way it plays out in what we call reality, sense vs. nonsense is what it actually boils down to. And I don’t know (though I have some idea of how it happened), but here in the middle 2010s, there are a LOT of people who identify themselves as Christians who are part of the nonsense. At least some of them can’t help it, having been indoctrinated from an early age in a simplistic idea of what that means, to be a Christian, and what to do with the book they thump—the Bible being then used to cover up the light, instead of being a light.

Contrary to what some so called “Christians” think, faith is not a substitute for intelligence. Indeed, ignorant faith can be what is diametrically opposed to true faith. In the parable of the sower, some seeds fell along a path and the birds came and ate it up. Explaining this, Jesus said that these were those who heard the good news, and did not understand it. Those who do not understand the real message of Jesus Christ are caught up in the care of themselves, and seem not to care for the welfare of others. The thought that other people should do as we do, and believe what we believe. “They should change to fit our idea of how things should be. We should not have to change ourselves at all, for we are of the elect, and therefore justified in discriminating against you, and shutting you down if you are different. Because we know we are right! For Jesus is on our side…” These people are scary.

Going a level up in this argument, these may say, “But are you not doing the same thing, here, to say we should think like you?” When you do not love your neighbor as yourself, that is what is against Christ. Do you not understand the Gospel? We are all of us sinners, no one of us better than the rest. We are called to be like Christ, who sat with the despised: do not do the despising. Do you want to be angry at someone? Direct your anger at the rich, who do hateful things and get away with them because of their wealth. This is what Christ did. And he was with the times, back 2000 years ago, that some of the traditions of religion were outdated, and if you have ears to hear, understand that some of the traditions of 2000 years ago are now, too, outdated. We’re not supposed to keep slaves anymore. And women should be seen as equal to men. Use your intelligence, and keep your faith. Such is a narrow way, indeed.

It is getting exceedingly easy these days to pick out which people are the ones to root against, and yet people seem to have trouble seeing it: the love of money is the root of all evil. [1 Timothy 6:10] Take a look, and follow the money. It almost always overflows into the cesspools of the human soul. But yet people do not see it. They don’t see what they don’t want to see, it would appear, or are their gazes averted for them? Surely, they are given distractions, given a moral high ground, given enemies. Then, they can make believe that the fight they fight is that primal good vs. evil, God vs. the Devil, no matter that the enemies are more vulnerable than they, because such us vs. them mentalities fit in a soundbite, can be catchy. And what makes their ears shut out the voices of reason—it’s because the voices of reason don’t tell them they’re the hero, and the soundbite does.

So is this writing doing the same thing? In saying that we are the good guys, are we then deluding ourselves in the same way? Indeed, if we say that there is no fault in what we do, we surely delude ourselves. But it is not enough to pick a side and push as hard as we can in that direction, we must apply the prudence that is available to us. For instance, those who say they are Christian like to think that they live according to the teachings of the Bible, but in many cases, it is not the case. If you study the history of the “values” they hold, you will usually find that they are traditions from human beings, not decrees of God that they follow. And in joining like minded people like those of that tradition, they get a little mental reward, when they believe that they are somehow “in the right”, and other people are not, and so they are “better people”. If you follow wisdom, however, you will see that the goal is not to be better than anyone else—it is instead to strive for equality, for we are all sinners.

Do you imagine that in following the dictates of the church instead of the dictates of reason that we follow Christ? That to follow in Christian tradition instead of what is in the heart is to be Jesus’ disciple? So it is written: “In the beginning was the Logos, and the Logos was with God, and the Logos was God,” [John 1:1] and of that Logos, “He was in the world, and the world came into being through him; yet the world did not know him.” [John 1:10] The word “Logos” is usually translated as “Word”, but I find it loses too much in the translation. “Logos” is of the same root as “logic”, and it means something like “reason”, and being capitalized, it would be “holy reason”. The Logos is the means by which anything works, here in the prime material plane. That this is Christ means we follow sense before nonsense, even if what is sense is called agnostic, and the nonsense is labeled Christian. And if you follow doctrine instead of the heart, you do not know him.

You are on one side or the other, sense and nonsense at odds expressible as logos vs. derangement, as to how it relates to reality, to things that exist in our material realm. If you do not yourself know which side you are on, or think of course you’re on the side of the Logos, there are a couple questions you can ask yourself. Is what you believe at all realistic? Because the Logos is all about being real. If you think you are a Christian because you believe the age of the world is 6000 years, then no, you’re not being realistic. And frankly, you’re not being Christian, because the Logos is not about trying to fit the wide world into your “little box of things that make sense to me because I never tried to understand what’s really out there”. Say hello to science. What is transcendent needs no protection from science. Put in another way, your God is too small.

The other question you can ask is if you want to impose your way of seeing things upon others, who think differently. There is something similar to doing that which is perfectly fine—that would be logical argument (logos again)—but to say, do it this way only because that’s what the Bible says (according to me or my group)? No. Try again. This time, with intelligence. When science tells you to do things, like to vaccinate your kid, it is not just “because I believe this is true”, and if you think your faith trumps science, especially because you think God is on your side, see above. You are not Christian simply because you go to church. I want to make this clear, if it wasn’t before: being a Christian means that you make sense. It is to be on the side of logos, and not derangement, however high and mighty that derangement sounds. And science—or anything like it—is not from the Devil, just because you don’t understand it. It is, again, quite from the Logos. It is a way to make sense of things.

Understood, bad things have been done in the name of science, but even worse has been done in the name of God. We live in an age where an entire world’s worth of information is at our fingertips. We can easily do the research when something comes up to make us question. We can start making sense of things, even if we have been told lies. It can be frightening to do, to question things that we’ve always believed. But to anyone who feels anchorless unless possessed of the simplistic “truths” that made sense of everything, or who could stuff all the outliers in the blanket cast of “Satan”: think for yourself. And further, if you want a place to start thinking for yourself, that is unquestionably in the Spirit, look, and see: God is love. Even if you don’t believe in God, you can believe that. And if your God is not love, I take off my sandals and shake your dust off them. Good luck in the Judgment.

On that last point, indeed, let it be known that sense, reason is not an end to itself. But it is the only ground from which love can grow. In thinking that God is love, it is the highest ideal for which we can strive, and gives us perspective on all things. Even if there were no God, He exists in our minds as the greatest possible being, and that structures the rest of which we can know as a light at the top shining down. It is hope itself. Let it be how you can make sense of every last thing. And remember, if you do not pick a side, you are not making sense: you are, in fact, choosing nonsense. For the tendency of the world is toward nonsense, toward entropy, unless we do something about it. It is the cost of living. And truly, that is better than dying: do you not see? have you not heard? Love is the only thing in all the world that is real. If it is not of love, it is illusion. Do not spend your precious life on a mirage, while you are in the desert, wasting away. That’s just nonsense. Nonsense.



If you like what’s written here, check out my book, Memoirs from the War in Heaven.

experienced

i find what moves me is the night coursing through my blood
the elixir, night, from vials where dreams are distilled
i find i feel naked without my chains, wandering on purpose
and the dreaming drags at my heels, me without my wings
the wind blows about voices which all miss my exact verbiage
so much sadness, pools about to burst in the house of wisdom
i have seen love come from out of nowhere, hope unheeding
even as the rocket’s red glare blinded me of anything else
sometimes to crawl out of one’s skin, momentarily nonexistent
until the moment when you meet yourself in the vast void
how cruel is the mirror to display whatever truth, how kind
there is power in the desire to be alone, mostly untapped
time as if unreal when no one shares the spaces in between
i have desired to taste the fire out of which desire seeks
and dreaming: it is to touch the world through the ether
have i understood not that innocence is infinite till lost?
the end of the world to be spectacular, unless it’s yourself
i know where i will be when the sky splits open: flying
for fear is merely not to understand where reality ends
even the darkest of horrors can be approached with kindness
and where have i been to know the secrets of the changing?
i to forget myself when asked to lead down the path i blazed
only to be whole when without the self, except the humor
love i have experienced as a gentle breeze… that knew me

arbitrary light

in the opening of the endless word
the idea is rendered in the bones:
are you small enough to love the world?
the legend of me is many myths long
as wide as the road to destruction
time threatens to stop, in vain
it is written in my dna to doubt
to dream deep in the womb of the earth
of silver horses that rush like rivers
ground zero of my forgotten desire
that which lazy with gravity pretends
which no longer plays nice with pain
why did i return arbitrarily home?
where dawn steadily claims the sky
i surrendered to the most distant light
which returned me to myself, as if
i lived in the reality in the mirror
only to catch glimpses of my true world
and i find myself huge, made of knots
that i do not forget the lighter things
to gaze into heavens where stars fall
could i expect the sheer perspective?
in the eyelash of infinity, there am i
who ate a star and spit out a particle
just waiting for eternity to blink
it happens to all of us: we are born
the most extraordinary of ordinary
to turn the corner when shows too soon
the tunnel lined with eyes, and the light
where we wake from this solid world
flight is to forget there are shadows

Pain, Observed

Pain requires an observer. Grind up a rock, split it in two, and it does not complain; it might be called an observer of sorts, that may in quantum terms collapse a wave function on its own, but there is no “looking out” anywhere in a rock, nothing that sees, feels, no awareness. It cannot feel pain, no matter what you do to it. Simply put, there is no value to the measurement. Pain does seem to exist for a reason, of course. As negative reinforcement: touch a boiling pot and the bite of the intense heat should make you learn not to do such a thing. It is a learning experience. Pain keeps us from doing some stupid things, it warns us when something is wrong in our physique, it makes us run faster from what we fear will inflict itself on us. Pain is evolutionarily useful. But there does seem to be an awful lot of it.

It is not so that there is more pain in the world than ever has been. We are as if waking up to what has been happening everywhere around us. Civilization exists to protect people from violence, and we are starting at least to stand up to the threat of pain, for it not to have power over how we decide. It is an idea whose time has come, what I mean by this: the answer blowing in the wind is to touch down. There will be no end of pain, but the manner in which it is experienced we count on materially changing: that it will not anymore be a deliberate and negative infliction, but rather only come by accident, or perhaps in corner cases to be part of some experiential gain. Perhaps a far future. The dream is that coming generations will be greatly removed from truly comprehending the actual nature of such things as torture.

Even if it comes, though, such a frame of mind, universal—what of all the pain that has been? How about all the senseless pain? Impersonal, storms that struck and rendered grievous injury due to no seeming cause, that there were no particular sin that had caused the hand of nature to so render retribution… how about the animals, too? the numbers caught in steel traps who chewed through their own leg to escape? dolphins who drowned in nets? deer caught in cruel barbed wire who only made it worse by trying to kick it off? I cannot believe animals were guilty of anything that the powers that be would take it out on them for it. It seems so much a waste, that the experience that marks the lives of all who have something which looks out—that this is what the world has to show to them. The cruelty is a mocking of fate.

Pain seems to be the cost of doing business. No pain, no gain, right? And an artist needs to suffer to produce anything of worth. (That happened to be true at least in the case of me, mine.) It seems to be the price of having a world at all. You can actually think of everything, that it is all made of pain, all sensations merely a variety of it. But what if the price we pay—what if it’s worth it? As if we see pain as currency, and some of the good things in the world what we purchase with it? What if pain is the price of love? I recall I was in the school play in elementary school. The play was The Prince Who Couldn’t Laugh, and it turns out it was because he had not first ever cried. Is the sweet not as sweet without the sour? In a larger scope, U2 lyrics come to mind: “Don’t believe the devil / I don’t believe his book / But the truth is not the same / Without the lies he made up.” Maybe in this world, the pain gives the heart its depth?

Out of pain, sometimes out of a lot of pain, there can be brought into this world meaning. It is not a fair equation, it might seem, from gallons of suffering a few drops of it may be squeezed out. But this is our “safety net”. We want to find meaning in any other way besides it, but if there is nothing else, we can find a depth of experience in tragedy. To share sadness makes us more human. Makes us care. And if it doesn’t? Then how easily is the reaper to separate the wheat from the chaff. It is not always easy to find meaning, for in this sometimes horrible world there can be so much pain it seems an impossible task to find any kind of purpose meet to such suffering, seemingly disrespectful even to try. Out of the Holocaust some said the meaning to be found was the new nation of Israel. But other Jews simply said, “It is too much, I can no longer believe.” This is understandable.

Sometimes the feeling of pain itself is the meaning. It is to care, when the object of what you care for is gone or is in pain themselves. They say that love can be the greatest source of pain in this world. Love sometimes grows powerfully when watered by tears. Do you understand yet? It is not fair. The sense that we can make of all of this—any of this—makes no sense. This is the world, this is life. In our faith we must believe that the meaning that is collected as the “fruit” of pain is greater than the pain ever was. Even if, as it looks, that so much suffering seems to go unmet by anything like caring. Or half measures taken to comfort the bereaved, how they look to fall so short of what we would rightly desire for them as recompense. But truly, even if there be no God or Heaven, can we believe that there is indeed a deeper meaning that comes from a world’s, a whole history’s worth of pain?

Is there buried treasure that we might dig, a sudden purpose where we might fit the greatest of suffering, and have it make sense? This is the Holy Grail greater than the Grail. Perhaps it is in memory. In imagination, even. That we sit and wonder of those who have suffered, especially those whom history forgets, and it causes our hearts to feel, to be human, and to give it our best that we should not see something like that happen again. Even for the best of us, and the best of our abilities, we will fall short, but the attempt—that in itself is meaningful. It is to care, beloved. To try and remember what the dust itself forgot, that is a form of magic. The good kind, the real kind. What if we make of the world, this ugly, imperfect world—what if we make of it better than what it would have been had it been perfect, all along? That is the nature of the greatest thing of all: that is the sentiment of love. Which without it we would be lost, sitting still on a calm day. Which if we have it, we can stand against the hurricane.

Do not despair. We not only can change the world, we are indeed in the midst of changing it. Do you not see? Have you not heard? Things are getting better. Not everywhere, not all at once, and sometimes it has to get worse before it turns back around—but it is happening. We don’t live in the Dark Ages anymore, do you not see? Have you not heard? You don’t have to believe in anything to have the hope, hope for all the world. That each dawn brings us the light to build upon the light of the day before. Even the great dreams may come to pass. As Anne Frank said, “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Amen. It costs you nothing to care. Nay, not just that: if you do care, how enriched you will then be, to have a heart. Don’t let that candle expire, beloved. Such light people have died to defend. We are what we care about… else we are worthless, indeed.