Ranting on Those Bastard Collective Neurosis: Religion and Spirituality

I’m not going to lie: I have spent fifteen minutes attempting to open this entry. 

Here goes nothing world, Lawrence Black now contributes his metaphysical phislosophies to the pithy sum of all religious and spiritual thought. Godspeed, Sir Black. 

That, unfortunately, was the best I could do. It is difficult to write about your spirituality: in a sense, it is akin to explaining your very philosophy of life – like who can do that; I view both spirituality and religion to be a kind of neurotic thing best kept to oneself. 

It was Pablo Neruda who described religion as a “collective neurosis”, which I just loved, because, to me, religion is essentially a complex like any on this list. Perhaps even the most complex of all complexes; I mean, we aren’t just talking mere narccicism or incestual fantasy – to cite two common complexes – no, we are talking imaginary being in the sky who sees you masturbate.

Now, just calm the fuck down Murica – we know you love your Jesus and your Trump – I’m just saying, in my opinion, that religion shit is fucked up. 

How – I don’t know – try this: try and imagine you care about things like equality, reason, free will, and science. And if you don’t, well, then religion is perfect for you. 

Not that I don’t find moral, intellectual, and literary value in various world religions – I have a good two feet of bookcase occupied by them – they just aren’t valid philosophies of life for me; in short, the collective neurosis of religion is not my cuppa. This, however, does not mean I don’t think man has a soul, or that there isn’t more that just the physical universe;  I have, after all, smoked me some fucking DMT. 

#thatshitkray

Point being, there is definitely a spiritual aspect to my life – and by spiritual, I refer to pantheism, synchronicity, psychedelics, intuition, the unconscious, love, dreams, the imagination, mythology, and the bigger workings of my sense of destiny, which guides me; however, I try to stay as far from spirituality as possible, and by spirituality I mean that other collective neurosis that we call “New age”. 

You’ve know them: those annoying suburban-troglodytes who seem to live by the mantra of “See no evil. Hear no evil. Speak no evil”; unless of course, the topic is GMOs or The Ego, which they, of course, themselves, do not have – on account of, you know, being so spiritual and shit. I am satirizing, but I really seriously hate these fuckers. Okay maybe not really, but I don’t like that spirituality has, in a sense, become just another religion, full of it’s own dogma, only, it’s not Jesus and God but consciousness and the divine.

Now, I realize that the entire point of spirituality is having your own experience; however, I see a lot of “spiritual people” having what seemingly amounts to the same experience. Hell, go to any Whole Foods and you’ll see many of those spiritual types practically have the same lives. 

I’m ranting; but, for me, what it boils down to, is that religion and spirituality ultimately provide limiting paradigms for my model of consciousness; for that is the only point of these things: models for life. Sure, Jesus is one – if you want to worship your Dad’s favorite son who died nailed to a cross because you are a born in sin piece of shit who wants to live in guilt before you burn forever or go to heaven, who knows. 

I’m entertaining myself, still ranting, but I have written this far because I want and deserve my own model, where I can live from my spirit and my soul without saying all is one, or even believing in an afterlife. 

I forgot who said it, but the quote goes something like, there ought to be as many religions as there are people. 

And I agree. Because if my God doesn’t exist, he should. 

What, you didn’t really think I was actually going to tell you what I believe, did you? Maybe in a part 2. 

Postscript:

I recognize I made a bit of a semantic argument about spirituality, without outlaying any actual ontological views, which is fine; however, I am really hoping after my next slumber, I awake inspired to map out something akin to my own spirituality – even if only as a record for myself as thirty-one years old. After all, my spiritually has evolved for as long as it has existed, and it will continue to for as long as I do. Just remember: the moment someone else has all the answers, you are the sucker. And I, for one, would rather risk manufacturing my own illusions, than to blindly follow another’s. 

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To Thine Own Self

I recently heard a well intentioned, albeit misattributed quote in a film, about how families always rising and falling in America. 

Perhaps this was more true in the days of Natahanial Hawthorne, who wrote in The House of Seven Gables of the Maule family as:

“…generally poverty-stricken; always plebeian and obscure; working with unsuccessful diligence …”

So too is the fate of many who are born and die in my day – and if not poverty stricken then debt stricken, and most certainly plebeian and obscure in their unsuccessful diligence. 

The American Dream is the idea of rising up from obscurity – from plebe to proprietor. This is the theme of many a musical. How ironic that those who pretend to live in a casteless society dream of rising above their own. 

Of course, not everyone wants or even believes in such a story for themselves. Many simply want more than they grew up with, which, ironically again, is precisely what their parents wished for them: a better life. Now, whether better means having a different emblem on your automobile, or simply having enough every month, well, this is something that follows according to each individual’s family history. Funny how ambition so often works that way. 

For me, I would dare say I am not in contest with the past, for there is no contesting; we had nothing. My scorecard is thusly not against the past but against the time and pressure of those who I wish to have as peers (More on that [peers] in a moment).

Were I a different person I might find myself content to remain in my present station in life, as one who has the ability to successfully get by according to the American standard. But, thank Caesar, I am not; however, I cannot deny the difficulty of rising above ones station. People are like crabs in a bucket: eager to pull their own kind back in as soon as one attempts to make a way out. 

Emerson wrote, “A man’s growth is seen in the successive choirs of his friends.” How sadly true this is, as anyone knows who has ever lost friends according to growth. As water seeks its own level men seek their own kind; for man is, by and large, the average of his closest friends. So it is, our peers define us more than we know, and – for better or for worse – a man’s peers are his equals.  

And to what end this game amongst the choirs of our friends is played, well, this, my dear reader, is up to you. You may be a weekend warrior or your own hero. And you may moralize and rationalize your reasons all you wish, but beware you do not deceive yourself. There is not much satisfaction, in my experience, in living the kind of life in which one lives in secret discontent. It’s a kind of false life where nothing seems right. 

And maybe this is all arising because I am thirty, the age in which, in the words of Albert Camus, a man takes his place in time. 

Likewise and during every day of an unillustrious life, time carries us. But a moment always comes when we have to carry it. We live on the future: “tomorrow,” “later on,” “when you have made your way,” “you will understand when you are old enough.” Such irrelevancies are wonderful, for, after all, it’s a matter of dying. Yet a day comes when a man notices or says that he is thirty. Thus he asserts his youth. But simultaneously he situates himself in relation to time. He takes his place in it. He admits that he stands at a certain point on a curve that he acknowledges having to travel to its end. He belongs to time, and by the horror that seizes him, he recognizes his worst enemy. Tomorrow, he was longing for tomorrow, whereas everything in him ought to reject it. That revolt of the flesh is the absurd. – Camus, The Myth of Sisyphus

So it is, the fire beneath my balls, so to speak, has been lit. 

Emerson too writes of a similar realization, whence a man must take responsibility both for what he is and  who he wishes to be. 

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance: that imitation is suicide: that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion: that through the wide universe is full of good, no kernal of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till. – Emerson, Self Reliance 

And here I sit, almost thirty one, knowing that what I am to be rests in my hands. 

Not the world, nor my family can ever – nor ever has – applied any pressure for me to be any certain thing. 

Besides, externals do not motivate me. After all, you may find amongst any number of successful men myriad reasons for their accomplishments in life – as you too may find excuses for failure as vast and varied amongst their counterparts. 

I can safely say that none of my known forebearers lived exceptionally successful, satisfying, nor contented lives. Why this is, well, it might have something to do with being Irish, but I would argue more it has something to do with the guilt and shame passed down upon the people by the church, which, in my opinion, was only ever established to produce and control obedient slaves. 

This may seem offhanded reasoning but I view consciousness as a sort of computer in which the highest commands are followed. Of course, I do not mean to say there don’t exist highly successful religious persons, but I neither suppose my ancestors were quite fervent in their beliefs – merely oppressed by them. 

It pains me we are not raised to be the heroes of our own stories but, rather, are raised to worship martyrs. 

Now, whether any of this makes a modicum of sense to anyone outside of myself or my Sarah, I care not. This blog is my blackboard and I shall do as a wordsmith does in formulating his own equations. 

Nothing against Jesus, I have no doubt he was the most awesome hippie of his day, but I was not born in sin, nor shall I die of it. 

As I recently read, religion is for those who believe in hell, spirituality is for those who have already been there. 

I’m just saying, you make your bets as your have and live your life as you will, but I will make my paradise on earth. 

And to that end, what motivates me?

The answer to this my friend, has nothing to do with good or bad, which, I suspect, is what stops many from ever following their bliss. All I know personally, is that they who live most truly in the shadow of guilt will never find their deliverance. Repression is the passage and pathway to hell. And no, I’m no hedonist – but I am far less of a Stoic than I have been in past years.

And this is merely called evolution. 

I will always be a Stoic, carrying forth the mental fortitude imparted to me by such philosophers as Marcus Aurelius and Epictetus, but to allow a single school of thought to rule over you, be it Catholocism or Liberalism, this is a crime against your own mind. 

I was taught to be objective and to think for myself by a wonderful psych professor, and that torch was set ablaze and further carried forth by a book I read this past year. In The Pursuit of Happyness, Chris Garner tells the story of how he was invited by a friend to attend a seminar, in which he found the teachings both demeaning and manipulative [Read my other entry on the same anecdote, here].

As he [The author] goes on to say: “That little experiment proved to me that I didn’t need other doctrines to enlighten me. But Bill kept on searching.”

The author then tells how that same friend (Bill) went on to follow a charismatic leader to Jonestown, where eventually he and 900 other followers drank cyanide laced kool-aid in what is know today as the Jonestown Massacre. 

Not that your pursuit of enlightenment – be it in Yoga or Jesus or Buddah – will end as tragically, but what’s to say some don’t give their lives up to someone else’s teachings just the same. 

I recognize I have digressed a bit, but to return to my point, I will say that in a perfect world there will be as many religions as there are people, and I should hope they might find themselves as Gods – not to worship, but to believe in. 

If you are not the hero of your own story, after all, what the fuck are you?

What do you believe in? Goodness and beauty and truth? Welcome to the club, but I’m sorry, those are not absolutes.

Under those same auspices countless people are persecuted and killed, as they have been by churches, doctrines, and other crusaders for millennia. 

You must find your own way. 

To grow up and gemnate your own goodness, beauty, and truth, you must realize that no one has the answers but you. 

And do some need religions and doctrines and leaders as moral guides? Perhaps. The ruling class thought so for ages. 

Today I think that by the virtue of the Western justice system (Something that will continually improve as it has) and via the effectiveness of the collective consciousness via global media, people have found new guides, new benchmarks for behavior. These, of course, largely serve capitalism rather than the individual, but the point being, the old gods are dying. Now, sadly, also I also think the inroads to the soul are passing along with them, but for me this is where spirituality picks up the ashes of religion, and the individual can – in many ways for the first time – live as the only the individual ought: freely and happily. 

Everyone believes in something – everyone worships something. 

As David Foster Wallace said in his famous Kenyon College graduation speech, This is Water:

The only thing that is capital T true is that you get to decide how you’re going to try to see it. You get to consciously decide what has meaning and what doesn’t. You get to decide what to worship…

Because here’s something else that’s true. In the day-to-day trenches of adult life, there is actually no such thing as atheism. There is no such thing as not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of God or spiritual-type thing to worship-be it J.C. or Allah, be it Yahweh or the Wiccan mother-goddess or the Four Noble Truths or some infrangible set of ethical principles-is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things-if they are where you tap real meaning in life-then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough. It’s the truth. Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you. On one level, we all know this stuff already-it’s been codified as myths, proverbs, clichés, bromides, epigrams, parables: the skeleton of every great story. The trick is keeping the truth up-front in daily consciousness. Worship power-you will feel weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart-you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. And so on.

Unfortunately, the speaker of these words had fought a decades long battle with depression, which ended when he hung himself, but he had a point. 

The problem is – I think – is that we worship what we are externally programmed to, rather than what we are internally aligned with. 

Personally, I worship experiences that either make my heart sing or my balls tingle a little bit. Things that make me happy. 

How this works out for me, history will tell, but I am happy and I am free. So, as it stands at thirty and 98% of thirty-one, I would say fabulously. 

And to close, I will honestly say that I have written this pretty much entirely for myself, but should it resonate with you, I implore you to find those things that make you happy, other opinions be damned. 

To thine own self be true. 

On Religion as a Bridge to The Soul

“If the person doesn’t listen to the demands of his own spiritual and heart life, and insists on a certain program, you’re going to have a schizophrenic crack-up. The person has put himself off-center; he has aligned himself with a programmatic life, and it’s not the one the body’s interested in at all. And the world’s full of people who have stopped listening to themselves.”

– Joseph Campbell


Reflecting, as I often do, I can today see how spiritually and psychologically unhealthy I was in a time now gone. How fortunate was I for the adversity that delivered me to a place dark enough to find hope.

I’m reminded of the Latin root of the word adversity: adverture; meaning: to turn towards. For it is only when we face what ails us that we may grow beyond it.

Adversity is not transcended or surmounted but moved through like a dark mountain pass. Denial, avoidance, repression, self-deception – these only ground us in the uncomfortable place, fating our gaze upon the mount; for whether we choose to recognize the splinter in our eye or not, it is there, showing itself in the myriad of complexes and ways a human being can choose to suffer and hate.

However, those dealt adversity often create problems rather than face what they feel they cannot; and often, the struggles a person faces are engendered as outlets for pains they find inadmissable – pains lost in the chasm between the mind and the spirit.

As a result of this gulf in the heart, man is cut him off from his inner world. Diagnosing the ills of the soul is then seen as a mental problem, addressable only through therapy or self-help. There do, however, exist other doctors for the soul, we just don’t believe in them anymore.

The priest and the church once provided a doorway to the inner world and the sanctum through which a man could live life connected to his soul through a higher power; however, the institution of religion is growingly dismissed as nothing more than a dogmatic farce, instituted to control the ignorant populous. Unfortunately, it happens to be an effective one.

The name of G-d has been wielded to enshroud evil in the name of good since biblical times, but the cost of blood spilled and enemies born under the auspices of religion has been the destruction of a bridge to the sacred for many. Unable to perceive the inherent good of something so historically detrimental to man, we’ve chosen rationality in favor of an evil we no longer wish to tolerate in the 21st century. And rightly so.

However, in recognizing the evils of religion in it’s ability to inspire ignorance – as seen in wars and the beliefs that so doggedly divide the human tribe – we are quick to dismiss it in its entirety. As a result of this turning away from G-d, we are shunning something, which, at the personal level, has enabled man to better face his inner battles since before the wheel.

It’s logical to buy into the intelligent argument posited by Carl Sagan that primitive humans invented Gods so we could explain the unexplainable, things which science has now given cause to (think lighting and famine); however, such an argument dismisses the value of intangibles like hope – the only thing a man with nothing left has.

Beyond hope, ritualistic tools such as prayer and worship of the sacred provide humans with an active and cathartic relationship with the soul, which we may call G-d.

How few of us dialogue with the inner world, which as modern psychology has discovered (the subconscious and unconscious) so greatly influences our thoughts and behaviors.

I’m merely thinking aloud here, sitting on the sand at night typing this on my phone, but on my own journey I’ve found spiritual health and as a result I am happier and more at peace than I’ve ever been. My adversities are no longer a cancer, setting wildfire to my life, but, rather, they are the weeds that show me the root issues I need to attend to in order to grow so that I might maintain wholeness in the face of the constant change of life.

Carl Jung believed that there was no neurosis that could not be cured by adopting a religious outlook on life. I too share this belief. And I worry that, regardless of its timeless effectiveness, this solution may be growing increasingly inaccessible as religion’s validity in the collective consciousness continues to decline.

I worry because I think that – again echoing Jung – man needs religion. At least, to achieve the unshakable inner peace I have today, I know I do.

I’m not advising you to look to religion for your soul to be saved, but I am asking that you consider the spiritual as a means of rescuing your soul from exile – for to live cut off from the soul is to live deaf to an inner voice that’s begging to be heard – often in the most painful and eventually effective of ways; however, some may have to wait until hope is all they have left.

It’s not by coincidence that I used to pray only when things got terribly bad or that things no longer get terribly bad. I ascribe this power to the soul as much as to a G-d. To me they are one in the same, the bridge leading to eachother.

Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee: On Suffering, Fear, And The Shadow

“We are afraid of our shadows. We are afraid of the darkness inside of us so, and so we project it outside and we have to go and fight these monsters that we project it onto outside. We are afraid of the dark; we are like children, and again, part of the mystical journey is to face that darkness. Also you need the sword of your own aspiration to go into the darkness inside yourself and to face that darkness, and then you discover that it isn’t that dark after all – the fears that you had – things change, and then you begin to discover the light that is hidden in the darkness. This is one of the great alchemical secrets, this is one of the great secrets of human transformation – that you go into the darkness, and it is terrifying at first, and then you discover this light of your own divine nature that is hidden in the darkness. It is called the pearl of great price that is at the bottom of the ocean, it is in the depths of darkness, there is something so beautiful, but most people are afraid of it, because there is a price to pay to confront your own fears, your own anxieties, and to go deep within yourself. It is much easier to project it and to have enemies outside, people you dislike. Then you can project your problems and it is somebody else’s fault. For the mystic it is always us.”

– Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee

We are afraid of the darkness inside of us so, and so we project it outside and we have to go and fight these monsters that we project it onto.

Background

I’m quite taken by the mind of Sufi mystic, lecturer, and author Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee.

Being that I am awakened on a spiritual path, I enjoy exploring numerous teachers from across nearly every era and doctrine. That being said, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee blows me away. And not just because he is a quote-unquote true mystic, but because he has a PhD in Jungian Psychology and is a truly bright intellectual. This lends an incredible depth to his knowledge of the human interior world and his keen sense of understanding on psychology, myth, and symbolism is evident within his lectures.

To hear a spiritual teacher reference Joseph Campbell and Rumi in the same span is nothing short of wholly refreshing. Eckhart, I have grown fond of you, and this isn’t goodbye, but Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee is like you on the limitless drug. Ironically, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee was recently hanging out with Exkhart’s good friend Oprah.

Introduction

The arrival of Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee in my life could not have come at a better time, as I am growing increasingly interested in the shadow after having recently had an experience where I faced certain aspects of my shadow for perhaps the first time. I understand innately that I am intrinsically afraid of the shadow, and I don’t like fear – I desperately wish to overcome it, and this has been a relatively consistent focus of mine this year, but I’ve lacked a deep enough understanding on the mechanics of fear to truly dispel the underlying fear that exists in my psyche. It’s one thing to have a transcendental experience of fear where fear is overcome, but it’s another to get to the root of it, where fear is effectively dissolved.

In listening to Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee speak on the human psyche in a spiritual context, I knew that I had happened on something that was the next piece in my journey to facing the inner dragons, which occupy a seat in all of our souls.

In a nearly hour-long interview, Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee faces a myriad of what are often borderline sophomoric questions (i.e., “if you had one wish what would it be?”), but nonetheless manages to deliver answers with great grace and timeless wisdom. Integrating the topics of the psyche, the shadow, and fear into a cohesive narrative on spirituality, Llewelyn Vaughan-Lee provides a rare glimpse into the keys to unlocking the inner world.

On Suffering as a Process of Purification

And if you look at it [suffering] from a spiritual point of view, anyone who has begun the spiritual journey knows that suffering is a process of purification, where we clean out the debris that we have accumulated inside of us, the denseness, the darkness within the psyche, and that suffering – that purification, the Sufis call it polishing the mirror of the heart. 

Note: I recently dreampt I was pulling dead branches down from a tree [clearing debris], an experience I wrote of here.

Problems as Essential Paths to Growth

In this world of duality, nothing is perfect, nothing is pure, it is part of our dynamic of life; Carl Jung, the great psychologist, he said you should never take somebody’s problems away from them because it’s through their problems that they grow, it is through this friction of light and dark that we grow.

On The Divine Spark Within Us All

We have in us a divine spark, you can see it – it’s a light that shines in the human being. It’s our direct access to truth, our direct access to God, and the purpose of all the spiritual practices that exits are to awaken that spark, to give it life, to give it energy – so that it can transform you. 

On What Keeps Most People From Living Their Full Potential

Fear – it stops them stepping into the light of the of their own self. And there is this saying that ‘people are not so much afraid of the darkness as of the light’ – of their own power, of their own potential, because then you have to become a responsible adult, and most people prefer to be children and to blame somebody else, but it is never anybody else’s fault. Once you take full responsibility for your life – it is your destiny – it is your life. Nobody else can live it for you.


jungs


Bonus: Free Audios – Mystical Life and the Inner Worlds

From the description: These talks explore the inner worlds of the mystical journey, focusing on the symbolic, archetypal world and the interior dimension of the Self. The symbolic world is an intermediate dimension whose archetypal images have a powerfully determining influence on our outer life. The Self belongs to a world beyond time and space that exists within the heart of each of us. The mystical journey gives us a direct experience of these interior realities.

Download them here.

Shadow Work and Reading List

Jung defined the shadow as: “The Shadow describes the part of the psyche that an individual would rather not acknowledge. It contains the denied parts of the self. Since the self contains these aspects, they surface in one way or another. Bringing Shadow material into consciousness drains its dark power, and can even recover valuable resources from it. The greatest power, however, comes from having accepted your shadow parts and integrated them as components of your Self.”

Shadow Work is the work of the heart-warrior – C.G. Jung

I’m assuming if you read the quote in this entry on The Shadow you are likely interested in learning more about this hidden, yet vital aspect of your psyche. The following books are on my reading list for future study / self-work.

Remember, as Joseph Campbell said, the cave you fear to enter holds the treasure you seek.

Read this next, The Heroes Journey: Sensing and Shaping Your Destiny Through Personal Mythology and Personal Myths