I was quizzed on the content of my new book I, Universe as a guest on the Occulture podcast. Here’s a segment from the interview, where I discuss parapsychology and magic with the host. The full talk is over an hour long, available to patrons of the podcast: https://www.patreon.com/occulture
My book deals with many topics on theme of “question everything,” so here’s another trailer, this time on the issue of mind control, particularly in relation to the first seven years of our lives, when we are like sponges soaking up information with no critical thinking:
[ Link ]
I’m inclined to think there’s something more than wishful thinking to the notion of dream interpretation. I’ve had a few bizarre ones in my day, and upon waking, I’ve been able to see direct synchronicities with things in my life. One such dream was about me cooking a dog (alive) in the oven, followed by me about to be caught in the act by my mother. The factor that ties this dream to reality is not the specific details, but the themes of guilt and shame – specifically something I was dealing with at the time of the dream. Isn’t it strange that our subconscious presents these challenges to us encapsulated in such bizarre symbolism? I certainly hadn’t been cooking a dog!
Last night I had a dream that involved something so weird that, immediately upon waking, I had the urge to commit the details to memory. First, I’m dreaming that I’m having an enjoyable bike-ride in the countryside with a woman (someone from real life that I happen to like a lot). My bike has no handlebars, so I can’t brake (probably a reference to my bike in real life that is in need of a little maintenance, including new brake-blocks). I almost fall off a few times as I encounter the corners at speed. My bike actually takes air at one point, but the laws of physics are a little funky and I manage to land safely and stay on course. This part of the dream finishes with one bend in the road that is a little too sharp, and I go spinning through the air doing multiple summersaults. I don’t recall an impact. Now, here’s the weird bit coming up: suddenly I’m at my house, standing alone, entering through the front door. As I close the door behind me, I notice three butterflies on the doorframe, near the top, sitting still, close together.
Now, I’m not going to jump to any wild prophetic conclusions. But it just strikes me as totally weird that my subconscious should insert something as out-of-place as butterflies inside the house. I’m not a nature-lover and I never think about butterflies. And here are some very specific details: there are three. They are not flying but resting together in a huddle on the inside of my doorframe – doing something I’ve never seen butterflies do; they’re not pack animals, after all.
I looked up some dream interpretation dictionaries online, but it’s hard to know when you’re being taken for a ride by these things.
The book Secrets of Dreams by Caro Ness mentions that butterflies can be seen as “symbols of transformation”, or as “accurate and startling affirmations of rebirth into a newer, brighter, and more illuminating existence …”
Interesting. The only thing I can say with confidence is that to dream of butterflies appears to be a very positive thing. Got to be better than oven-baked canine!
The intellectual and spiritual journey I’ve been on for the past year has been powerful and life-changing. It shows no sign of fading. In fact, the whole picture has gotten clearer and clearer as time has progressed.
I’m really glad I blogged about it all, because I now have a permanent record of what is probably the most important transition of my life. For a while, I’ve been considering turning the past year’s blog entries into a physical book, but I think I need to start afresh and introduce the insights from a more effective angle than the haphazard way that they occurred to me at the time.
I put an outline together today, penned an introduction and the first chapter, totaling some 3,000 words. I’m really happy with the results so far.
I’m not sure how much or how little a book of this kind is going to interest the folks who visit here. I just feel passionately about, so I’m going to do it.
The working title is Reality Check, which is a perfect fit thematically, but is a bit common. I’m sure those words have already been used as titles before now. I’m all ears for an alternative title.
I would like the cover to feature a kitten playing with its reflection in the mirror (i.e. not fully understanding reality), but how I’m going to get a photo of that I’ve no idea.
I want to thank everyone who posted challenging comments to my blog entries over the past year. It’s good to be kept on your toes and also helps me to notice my failure to communicate at times.
The journey is, of course, not over, and probably never will be. I haven’t reached any sort of ultimate conclusion, and I doubt there’s a point where I will say, “I understand it all now. Job done.” So, when is a good time to write a book about the nature of reality? Might as well be now.
Some people think of eternity as a line with no beginning and no end. In church, I’ve heard preachers say things like “Way back in eternity past …” It’s as if God were on his own forever until he decided to make the universe. Likewise, we are led to believe that we, as individuals, had a beginning but will not have an end – that we will simply go on collecting experiences forever, both on earth and in heaven. But I think we misunderstand the nature of eternity. It is not a line with no end. We’ve misunderstood the whole nature of time itself. Infinite Consciousness (my preferred term for what you might think of as God) does not experience time in the way that we (that is, our individual egos) do because it knows the end from the beginning. There is no value for Infinite Consciousness in travelling along a never-ending line where it always knows what’s coming.
Infinite Consciousness exists in eternity, which is not a never-ending time-line; it’s a realm of no-time or all-time – a realm where free will, deductive thinking, and decision making do not exist, because all is known, all is complete. Time as we understand it is merely a construct. Infinite Consciousness created time as a means of fragmenting itself, of experiencing incompleteness, for reasons known only to itself. The consciousness within me is Infinite Consciousness. The consciousness within you is Infinite Consciousness. We are the same being. We have simply been placed into an arena where we cannot access the full awareness of what we are. Just beyond my subconscious mind is Infinite Consciousness holding me here – holding itself here. Likewise, just beyond your unconscious mind is Infinite Consciousness holding you here. We are one and the same being; we have simply been forced into a state of amnesia, because that amnesia is the only way to experience what it’s like for there to be something other than you. To be human is to leave eternity and enter time – to deliberately forget what you are and undergo a period of learning filled with thrills and spills, joys and sorrows.
I experienced a sudden moment of clarity recently. It came like a bolt from the blue when I was out cycling one evening, travelling along a route that I had cycled since boyhood. I was reminiscing about what it had felt to be here doing this when I was a teenager, playfully imagining I could ride through a time-warp and suddenly be that person again, re-living those memorable school days. And it suddenly hit me: “There is no time. You are not moving forward through time. You are Infinite Consciousness, and there is only this one eternal moment – the NOW. Time is an illusion that is playing through you. You are standing still. There is only NOW.” I had read these ideas before, but never understood them until this strange moment when the pieces of the jigsaw clicked. I suddenly got a new perspective on the question “What happens to my soul when I die?” Or as Christians would say: “Where will you spend eternity?” I’m not heading for anywhere, heaven or hell. I’m standing still. The events of time move towards me and play through me, and it’s all a construct. It’s like time is a DVD and you’re the laser reading it, standing still in the now while the movie plays through you. If I could tear the veil of time away, the full knowledge of what I am would flood my consciousness – and time would disappear. When I had this moment of clarity, I just started to laugh joyously (good job I was alone). It was a wonderful moment of intuition that added another layer of clarity to the intuitive journey I’ve been on for the past year.
I have heard the analogy that we are like droplets of water and collectively we make up the ocean. It’s a limited analogy, because we’re still inclined to identify ourselves with the droplet (the ego) and not the ocean. The truth is you are the ocean. Yes, little you. You are Infinite Consciousness. The awareness inside you is the awareness of God, if you like. The only reason you don’t already know that is because the experience of human individuality makes you forget it. It’s the only way the human experience can work. If you suddenly awoke to your true magnitude, you couldn’t function here in this place as an individual. Here at this human level we are individuals. We may still be individuals are a higher level. But at the highest level, you and I are the the same being. In simple terms, imagine two people dying at the same time, suddenly realising they are the same person with two sets of memories (the truth is likely more complex than that, but I hope you get the idea). We are only lulled into thinking that we are separate by “ego.”
Some people who embrace this kind of thinking seem to favour the idea of reincarnation. Now, reincarnation might be true on one level, but at the same time, it’s just another part of the time construct, and we have to get beyond that. Even if my indivudal “soul” has lived a hundred lives before now, on a higher level of awareness, my soul and your soul are the same person. Reincarnation strikes me as just another way to perpetuate the human ego into “eternity to come,” when the whole point is the realisation that ego is a construct, and the future is a construct. There is only ONE existing in the NOW.
The whole universe is an expression of Infinite Consciousness undergoing an experience of separation. And humans are only a small part of that. The three-dimensional physical nature of the universe is nothing more than a holographic projection which allows human and animal life to interact via five senses. In its fundamental essence, way beyond the atomic level, it is pure energy. And all of it is a projection of Infinite Consciousness.
Well, that’s what I think. Crazy as it may sound to some ears, this is the view of life that resonates most clearly to me. It doesn’t bother me in the slightest that I can’t stand in line with a whole bunch of people and call myself a Christian or an atheist or whatever. The world is full of people patting each other’s backs and assuring each other that they’re on the right track. There is a massive section of the population that believes strongly in something that is in direct opposition to the strong beliefs of another massive section of the population, and only one of them can be right. Or maybe neither! The sheer scale of each opposing herd leads me to put no faith whatsoever in the herd mentality. The truth is not found in following the archetypal belief systems of those around us.
Have you ever noticed how someone can say “I’m an atheist,” or “I’m a Christian,” and no one will laugh. But if you should say, “I am Infinite Consciousness. I am everything that ever was, is, and will be,” the person you are talking to might think you are mentally ill. This is how much we are infected with the herd mentality. It doesn’t matter if one herd says something in complete contradiction to another herd. As long as it’s a herd, we give it respect. But when someone stands up and says something different, the ridicule begins (David Icke, circa 1991, anyone?).
We refer to ourselves as “human beings,” but it might be more accurate to call ourselves “human becomings.” None of us are existing in a state of being. The experience of life in a body is the experience of continual change as we move through time. There is only one that possesses being outside of time: Infinite Consciousness. I intuitively believe that this Infinite Consciousness is the awareness inside every one of us. The experience of being propelled through time is just an illusion, born out of our disconnection from the full awareness of the vast being that we collectively are.
Most people identify who they are with their physical selves. This is evidenced by how obsessed we are with our bodies. It’s all well and good to take an interest in your appearance, on the grounds that your appearance is what you use to interact with the world around you. But few would deny that the pursuit of beauty has reached epidemic proportions. “Buy this new wondercream to hide those wrinkles!” screams the latest TV advertisement. Young people are constantly bombarded with impossible standards of beauty from the media and are urged to think, “This is what you must be or you are not good enough.” Middle-aged people are encouraged to mask what they are becoming by this gel, that needle, or the other operation. It’s as if the entirety of your personal worth hinges on what you look like.
You can buy into the hypnotic trance sold to you by the media and society, or you can think your way out of it by asking one simple question: “What am I?” First of all, you are not your body. Your body is a machine. It may not be made of metal, but it works on exactly the same principles. Grab any human biology textbook, look at the diagrams, and tell me that’s not a machine. Our bodies are made up of thousands of parts, each one unique in appearance and function, each one serving the whole machine, allowing you to walk, run, dance, talk, whisper, shout, look, listen, smell, pick your nose, and so on. The body is a biological machine. You feel this machine is you, because you are so intimately aware of it and connected to it. If someone kisses you or slaps you on the face, you feel this, not only on your face, but in your emotions. This way, we are lulled into thinking, “My body is me.”
The body is 70% water. Are you, then, 70%, water? If you fill the bathtub with several litres of water, would you say that you’re two thirds of the way to creating a human being? Let’s take it further. In the centre of your chest is a heart that pumps blood around your body. If your heart failed, and you received a heart transplant, are you any less you for having an organ from another person working in your body? No, you still exist. It’s no different from replacing a faulty component in a car engine. If you lose your your legs in a car accident and are in a wheelchair for the rest of your life, you still exist. In fact, a whole lot worse could happen, and you would still be here. Because the body is not you. It is the vehicle you are using to intereact with the physical world.
So, what am I? You know what I’m getting at by now. I am the awareness looking out from behind these eyes. I am the consciousness that is able to say, “I am me.” It seems so obvious to me now, and yet I’ve lived with the false understanding all my life that I am my body. “Body consciousness” seems to be the prevalent way of thinking in the world, because few people question the reality that is handed to them on a platter by the conditioning of human experience.
Okay, so I’ve identified myself as my consciousness. But what is consciousness? Is consciousness the brain? Am I still just a biological machine with the central part of me being my “grey matter”? Is self-awareness nothing more an electrical activity flowing through neurons? The atheist says, “That’s exactly how it is.” The spiritualist says, “No, we have a soul.”
To answer this dilemma, I would use the analogy of comparing the brain to the processor of a computer. Just like a brain, a computer can think. You can program a computer to perform a task, feed it data, and it will work its way through the task and produce results for you at the end. In fact, a computer can think much faster and more reliably than a human brain. It’s like a superbrain. Imagine yourself playing chess against a computer. The game is quite real, because your opponent’s thoughts are quite real. And let’s face it, unless you’re very good at chess, the computer is going to win. But here’s the thing: even though you’re playing chess with a computer, would you ever say that your computer is self-aware? Can your computer use its own volition to say to itself, “I am conscious”? No. It isn’t conscious. And this points to a very important truth that is sadly overlooked by science. Thinking and consciousness are not the same thing. (I’ve heard people use different words for these concepts, and there doesn’t seem to be any consenus. I’ve heard someone refer to “mind” and “consciousness” as the same thing, and referring to the other as “pure awareness.” For my purposes, if I refer to “mind,” I’m referring purely to physical brain-based thought. When I say “consciousness,” I’m referring to self-awareness.)
There’s no doubt that thinking is brain-based. After all, chemical substances affect how you think. Different animals, with different sizes of brains, have different levels of intelligence. People with brain damage have problems thinking correctly. All this makes the atheist rub his hands with glee and claim, “Look. You’re nothing more than a brain. Here’s the proof.” But this is only true if mind and consciousness are identified as one and the same. And the computer analogy shows they are not. Atheists don’t seem to realise that they are essentially reducing themselves to the level of robots. Robots are a facsimile of consciousness, incapable of self-awareness; we’re the real thing.
An important question to ask at this point is: “If consciousness is something that trancends brain-based thought, then does it die when the body dies?” It’s impossible to answer this question on purely rational, empirical grounds. If I say I have an immortal soul, something that transcends physical life and drifts off to who knows where after death, then how exactly do you measure and quantify that and say “Look, here is consciousness” using the science of the physical plane you’re claiming to transcend? Bit of a predicament, eh? If you’re of the strict mindset that dismisses everything outside of empirical investigation as untrue, then this is the point where some of what I say from here on will read like nonsense. You’ve decided never to believe in something you can’t grasp, even though there may be such a thing as the ungraspable. But as I see it, absense of proof does not necessarily mean proof of absense.
People commonly believe in one of two archetypes: you either have an immortal soul or you don’t. But the trouble with archetypes is that they are merely hand-me-down ideas that slip into your thinking without you realising it. I think the truth is far more amazing than the idea that the human race is a collection of disembodied souls floating around in some other realm. In choosing what to believe about the nature of consciousness, my own intuition is my guide, with rationality as its close cousin, providing clues and helping me avoid self-delusion.
When I was a Christian, I had the rather primitive understanding that when I die, my personality floats off into the ether to meet God. But if I identify my consciousness with my personality, I make another mistake. Personality is purely brain-based and this is easily provable. For instance, the personalities of teenagers are dictated by chemical changes in their bodies as they go through puberty. Alternatively, when a teenager drinks a can of Red Bull, you can watch a rapid change of personality unfold – at least temporarily. There are clear differences in the way that men differ from women in how they think, feel and act, and these differences are purely bio-chemical. Furthermore, imagine yourself shipwrecked on a desert island, completely alone. What happens to your personality when there is no one to interact with? It cannot be expressed, so it ceases to be. Yet you don’t cease to exist. I happen to like my personality (others may disagree!), and I feel quite attached to it, but I know it will undergo changes in later years, just as it has undergone changes up till now. Personality is not a constant that equates to consciousness. Science shows that there’s a lot about you that is provably physical in nature, and everything that is physical perishes. A mother who loses her teenage son in an accident will not find that same bubbly, quirky, mischeivous personality waiting for her on the other side, because all those things that made her son the person he was are physical in nature. When you die, say goodbye to your brain and everything you used it for. After death, we’re done with thought and emotion. Do you think you’ll continue to be a man or a woman, psychologically and emotionally, after you shuffle off this mortal coil? Why would you be, when everything that dictated those qualities has turned to dust?
My, doesn’t this cast a new light on our assumptions about what lies beyond death? I am left with the understanding that my awareness trancends physical reality, and yet there’s so much that I think of as me that I’ll be leaving behind. When I die, just what will I be? Because there doesn’t seem to be much left of me to be anything! The horror of this situation is simply a result of identifying who you are with the wrong thing: your personality, your ego, your sense of being a unique individual, different from everyone else around you. “But if I’m not my ego, what’s left?!” you cry. “If all I amount to when I shrug off this body is some bland, unthinking, unfeeling consciousness, then death might as well be oblivion, for all I care.”
Ah, but all is not quite as it seems. There are more pieces to this puzzle. But that’s a story for next time.
The knowledge of what we are is discovered by realising how we’ve been misdirected by our experience. We’ve been conditioned to think, “I am a human being having a spiritual experience,” when the underlying truth of it is “I am a spiritual being having a human experience.”
I’ve just finished watching an excellent documentary series on TV called Around the World in 80 Faiths. Anglican minister Peter Owen Jones took a year off from his parish to travel around the world and to, as he puts is, “Take the religious pulse of the planet.”
If I were still a Christian, I would have been shocked by his willingness to participate in some of the rituals. He did everything from drinking ayahuasca in a Brazilian rainforest to joining in naked at an urban witchcraft ceremony. As an ex-Christian, I have no judgement whatsoever to make on the man. In fact, his willingness to participate made it all the more fascinating.
The documentary looked at the major religions: Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, various branches of these, cults, and other little known faiths.
I came away from the series with the realisation that you could end up as anything, depending on nothing more than where you were lucky or unlucky enough to be born. I finally started to appreciate what people mean when they dismiss Christianity with words like “Everybody has their own beliefs.” When you have an appreciation of the sheer diversity of religions on Earth, and the sheer commitment that all these people have to their own way being the true way, you start to see how incredibly tiny your own religious experience is in comparison to the experiences of others.
I feel a sense of sadness that the world is in this state of diversity, because if the idea of objective truth has any validity, then something somewhere is true. Of course, as soon as I say that, all of those religions are raising their hands claiming, “It’s us!”
Sadly, religions seem happy to survive and advance by presenting only a single version of reality to the young (indoctrination) and encouraging the herd mentality in all (social conditioning). Some also back that up with terror tactics – viewing life in an alternative way results in immediate damnation. Rarely does the subject of evidence come up.
If I’ve learned one thing from the mammoth task of finding the real truth in the haystack of religion, it’s the sheer improbability of finding it. And that, for me, means that I simply cannot take religion seriously.
You pick your religion (although usually it’s picked for you) and you bet your life on it. You hope that your way is the true way, and that your faith will see you safely through the mystery of death into the arms of God (or to your next life, or whatever).
I refuse to be indoctrinated and conditioned. I refuse to assume that the religion of my birthplace is the one true way. I cannot take seriously any threats of judgement without some serious weight of evidence to back it up.
The cure for religious indoctrination and conditioning is to reclaim your right to think your own thoughts – to always ask the question “Why?” when you don’t understand or don’t agree, and to never let yourself be guided by so-called “truths” dictated by nothing more than strength of numbers. Only then will your thoughts and decisions be your own, and only then will you have a hope in hell of discovering any genuine truth.
Seven or eight months ago, I abandoned Christianity, after being a Christian for many years. It was a decision that cost me dearly. Four close friends have exiled me from their lives, and two others can no longer see me due to their family’s intolerance. This all happened, not quite because I abandoned Christianity, but because I chose to speak out publicly about my reasons for doing so. Let’s not mince words: I expressed opinions that were anti-Christian.
Looking back, having learned a lot since my decision, I not only stand by it, but my stance has been greatly reinforced. There is not a single thing that lures me back to Christianity except the slight nagging fear of having made the wrong decision. I am fully aware that I am literally betting my life and soul that I’ve made the right choice. I take it very seriously, and only a fool wouldn’t.
In choosing to speak against Christianity, I caused great offense to some people, and it occurs to me now that I don’t think I ever made it clear why I was compelled to say the things I said. It could appear that I am full of venom, but that’s not the case.
When the teachings of Christianity tell me that I am going to hell, that provokes a response from me. I can either accept the Christian claim or reject it, and that rejection can take one of two forms:
1. I shrug my shoulders, walk away, and hope that hell doesn’t really exist.
2. I investigate the claim (with as little bias as possible) to be sure that I’ve made the right decision.
Response 1 would drive me mad, as I would end up constantly living in fear of being wrong. I would have to know for sure, just to put my mind at ease – or equally to lead me to embrace Christianity, should evidence present itself.
So I’ve done my homework. In fact, I’ve done twenty years of it; my relationship with Christianity goes way back. And now I don’t think Christianity is true. I don’t think there is such a place as hell. I don’t think people are damned until they discover “the way.” And I’m betting my life on it. What choice do I have? The choice between doing what I think it right, or giving in to an unjustified threat.
In saying such things, I realise I’m being very anti-Christian, but the thing I need to throw back at the Christians is this: you provoked it. I’m not trying to shift responsibility. What I’m saying is, you can’t threaten somebody and expect them to have no reaction to your threat. You can’t ask me to play Response 1, and simply say, “Gee, I hope what you’re saying isn’t true,” and nothing more.
Okay, maybe you won’t deny me the right to think what I choose to think, as long as I keep it to myself and don’t cause offense. That’s unfair for two very clear reasons.
Firstly, you’re saying you would prefer to relate to a false version of me, a politically correct projection that suits you but is nothing more than an illusion. What kind of a relationship is that? Wouldn’t you prefer me to be honest? Wouldn’t you prefer to know what I really think?
Secondly, you are expressing hypocritical double standards. How can you deny someone the right to say what they think is true (even when it offends), when you give yourself the right to express what you think is true (even when it offends)? If you’ve got the balls to say, “Buddy, you’re going to hell,” then I’ve got the balls to say, “No I’m not, and here’s why.” How can you be intolerant to criticism when you claim the right to criticise everyone else?
I don’t want to tar all Christians with the same brush. Some of my friends are Christians, and they’re still my friends, and we still have intelligent discussions without getting angry. My experience of losing friends has made me see that Christians are divided into two camps. I’m not sure what to call these groups, but I’ll wager the words “moderate” and “fundamentalist” are close labels. They are groups of mind and not of location, although I would say that certain churches fuel the fundamentalist mindset, whereas others fuel the moderate mindset.
I think the driving force behind the fundamentalist mindset is the ideal “I want to do God’s will. Whatever God says, I will do, and it doesn’t matter what you think or even what I think, only what God says.” This is rooted in an understanding of the supremacy of God and the perfection of the religious teachings. It sounds fine on the surface, until you try to put it into practice in a world full of differing beliefs. You give yourself permission to slam everyone else’s beliefs and you get angry at them for slamming your beliefs, but you still think that’s fair because you’re the one’s who’s on God’s side. The trouble is, often the opposition believes the same thing about themselves. This, I think, is the root cause of religious conflict, whether that conflict is as insignificant as an abandoned friendship or as devastating as a war.
The moderate Christian realises that when he gives himself permission to criticise someone else’s beliefs he must allow them to criticise his. This is nothing more than basic fair play, the understanding that we’re all equal. We don’t all start out with the same beliefs, so how can we live life with the constant expectation that everyone will see things the same way, accept as sacred the same things that we hold sacred? Ultimately, it is as simple as “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” This principle is recognised by athiest and Christian alike as the most beneficial way to relate to people, and the very fact that it is in the Bible should give the fundamentalist Christians pause to reconsider their tyrannical stance on the world around them.
I have my own imperfections and personal failures to deal with, too. I’ve been known to get a little upset at times – like when a fundamentalist makes snide remarks at me, or calls me stupid, or insinuates that I have some malevolent agenda. I don’t react well to character assassination. Understandable, you might think, but I should learn to simply accept the criticism without complaint. If that’s how a person feels about me, then I would rather have that raw honesty come out than have the experience of polite dishonesty or hidden fury. Let me have the truth, even if it stings. Mind you, the same fundamentalist will be completely mystified why I don’t feel any attraction to the sort of spirituality that leads him to express himself the way he does.
To the Christians who have stood by me, I’m glad of your continued friendship. I know you think I’m going to hell. That doesn’t bother me, because you have every right to believe what you want to believe. To those who are too offended by me to remain friends, I wish it wasn’t so, and I hope this essay helps you to understand why I’ve gone about things the way I have.
Bottom line: you can’t threaten somebody and expect them to take it lying down.
About seven or eight years ago I was in the sticky position of being “piggy in the middle” in a dispute that broke out between a friend of mine and a relative. It was a stressful time for me, and without going into the details, I ended up flushing that friendship down the toilet. A couple of years later, I contacted this ex-friend again briefly, because I needed help with making a DVD of a movie we had both produced. He declined to help, but asked for a copy of the DVD when it would be finished. I said, “The DVD was offered in exchange for your help.” He replied, “You’ve got a nerve. Don’t contact me again.” That was the last time we spoke … until a couple of months ago.
Circumstances had conspired to put us in touch with each other again. I decided it was time to reach out and try and rebuild the bridge I tore down, without any request or demand or expectation of apology, and especially without any pride or self-defence. I said something to the effect of, “I regret speaking harshly to you those years ago. Would you like a copy of the DVD?” He suggested I could post it to him or we could meet somewhere. That was all the encouragement I needed to invite him to my home.
I’m really glad I did. We chatted for well over a hour, talking about our lives. We also cleared the air about old times. Neither of us were interested in apportioning blame, only in being reconciled. “I think we should keep in touch,” he said at the end, and we exchanged phone numbers.
I’m talking about this now because I’ve been reflecting on how easy it is to hold on to bitterness and resentment. When I was a Christian, I lived with a sense of reality that said for every sin there is a punishment, and forgiveness only comes with a price. For God to forgive man, it was necessary for him to send his Son to die on a cross – the transferrence of our debt and punishment to another. And for man to forgive man, it is written, “If he repents, forgive him.” The Christian message is one where every wrong deed is of great import, and forgiveness is withheld until certain conditions are met. It makes bitterness and resentment so easy to cling to and justify. And I did, for so long.
I remember hearing a funny sketch by comedian Bill Hicks. Hicks has no problem poking fun at religion, and it often comes up in his stand-up sketches. In one sketch, he talked about how a couple of guys once came up to him after a show and said, “Hey, Mr. Funny Man, c’mere. Hey, Mr. Comedian, c’mere … We’re Christians. We didn’t like what you said.” After a pause for dramatic effect, Hicks replied, “I said, ‘Then forgive me.'” The audience roared with laughter. When it subsided, Hicks went on, “Later, when I was hanging from the tree …”
There’s something ironic in the fact that I had to let go of Christianity in order to learn how to forgive people. When I reflect on my own attitudes as a Christian, it’s not surprising to me that some of my friends have cast me off. All I’ve done is express a difference of opinion, and that’s all it has taken for some of my friends to wave bye-bye. They view life with a sense that everyone else around then should conform to their personal expectations of what’s sacred, and when I refuse to agree with those expectations, they turn their back on me. A Christian (one who has stuck by me) recently said, “Christians are the only people who shoot their own wounded.” Of course, I don’t see myself as wounded, but I imagine that’s how I look to a Christian. The truth is I have never felt more clear-headed or in control of myself. I feel like my mind belongs to me for the first time in many years.
One of the major shifts in my understanding is in the areas of guilt, punishment, forgiveness, retribution – all those inter-related themes. I have come to believe that the entire concept of punishment for wrongdoing is incorrect (that is not to say there should be no prisons, but I think the focus of such places should be rehabilitation and the protection of society, not punishment). I made the transition to this kind of understanding after I started to see that human beings are not separate from each other. We do not have individual souls. Individuality is an illusion that plays out in the arena of the physical world. From a wider perspective, everything is one consciousness, eternal and all knowing. But in these bodies, on this physical phane, we are conscious of only a tiny fraction of what we truly are. We are everything that exists. I am you and you are me. Oh, I know how this sounds to a lot of ears, and I feel so frustrated that I can’t communicate the extent to which I sense this to be true or indeed why I sense it to be true. But let’s at least take a look at the implications of this kind of understanding.
When we see ourselves as separate from one another, it is so easy to dismiss another person. If they do something wrong, we can say, “They made their own bed; they have to lie in it.” But if we are all one consiousness, then the thing that is happening to someone else is also happening to me. It makes no sense for me to condemn that person, only to help them. Our belief in separation facilitates everything from the holding of grudges to the belief in eternal damnation. I spent so much of my life trapped in that understanding, but when you open your mind to challenge these preconceptions, it can open to door to wonderful change.
I once believed that it was profound that a saviour had to die in order to save me from my sins. I now believe that there is no vengeful diety marking my every action, no need for such a sacrifice, no eternal punishment for any actions that anyone every did. It sounds like a free-for-all, like we can all do whatever we want without consequences. Well, take a look at what I wanted to do. I wanted reconciliation with a friend that I had cast aside. Where did that desire come from? From this thing called Original Sin that we’re all supposedly born with – this predisposition towards evil? Or is that yet another smokescreen in life – another illusion that actually has the effect of luring us towards negative behaviour because we’ve been made to believe we’ll never do better? In my experience, that’s exactly what Original Sin is, and my rejection of it has done nothing but improve me morally.
I’ve come to see that our beliefs can cause us to fill our lives with such high-and-mighty nonsense. Recently I’ve been on the receiving end of so much “How dare you say such-and-such,” “I can no longer be your friend,” etc. And in the past I’ve dished out my fair share of it, too. But I’ve come to understand that so much of the human drama is a joke. Here we are, Infinite Consciousness, incased in these egos, unaware of our true magnitude, identifying ourselves with these finite bodies, with the mental chatter and chemical addictions of our brains. We look at the ego and say, “This is me,” and quickly add, “Screw you.”
But when you understand that we are all One, there is only one attitude to others that makes any sense: love. That is why I can put aside pride and ego, and the need for apology, and reach out to someone whom I had been pointlessly resenting for years.
I have no doubt that some of my friends who have been following my blog for a long time are going to see me as slipping further from “common sense” into la-la land. I’ve said this before, and I’ll say it again: I can’t ignore the good changes that have happened inside me, as a result of embracing an openness to possibilities outside of a Christian worldview. I have conquered my personal vices; I have courageously spoken out about a sensitive issue and refused to be silenced when pressurised; I have learned to love unconditionally, putting aside grudges and resentments. There is no pride in stating these things, only an encouragement for others to step outside of their conditioned reality to discover the same things and more. Frankly, when I look back on my Christian experience, I was a blundering oaf by comparison, blown to and fro by dogma and doctine that was making a mess of me.
But someone will say (and has done), “Your life may be better morally, but that’s only because Satan is making it easy on you. He will use any methods to get you, as long as he gets you.” Frankly, from a Christian perspective, that’s borderline heresy. Christianity is supposed to have a positive transforming effect on the lives of those who embrace it, with the power of sin broken by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. But when rejecting Christianity has the effect of changing you dramatically into a better person, something is seriously wrong somewhere.
Forgiveness is there for the giving. That’s the simple truth I learned recently. No need to hold resentment, to demand apologies, no need for keeping a catalogue of wrongs. It’s just a choice – one that can be made without condition. Of course, it may not be easy. Someone may do something horrible to me, and my reaction might be to wish harm upon that person. That’s when I need to remember, we are all one consciousness. There are no good guys and bad guys. Even people who do great evil are an expression of Infinite Conciousness. Such people need to be loved and helped, not punished.
I still feel disturbed by that meeting I had two days ago [see previous post]. It’s like a dark cloud hanging over me. I’m trying to get a handle on why, so that I can move past it.
The man I was talking with is actually the previous pastor of my church, under whose ministry I sat for years upon years of my life. And I wasn’t just a church-goer. I was in this guy’s life as a close friend and confidante for a long time. He was also like a mentor to me. We did grow apart to some extent at one point, because I stopped seeing life in quite the same way as him, even as a Christian. Although he stayed a part of my life even then, because I was friends with his son.
It was a hard experience having him speak angrily to me and condemn me. Hard because there’s still that suspicion in the back of my mind that he’s much older and wiser than me. Those memories are powerful. And combined with his reaction to me, the effect is a sort of irrational dread that tries to creep over me.
The easy thing to do would be to give in to it. To say, “I don’t want to go to hell! I believe! I believe!” I have to remind myself that all I’ve done for the past few months is I’ve followed what I believed to be true. The thing that some Christians can’t seem to understand is that sometimes people learn things that change them. This is true when you become a Christian in the first place, when you make the transition to turn from your sins and believe the Bible. For most people, this change is once only, and forever. I expected it to be that way with me, too, in the beginning. But it has been a rocky road, primarily because I have always been a thinker.
For instance, it doesn’t sit easy with me that the Old Testament God commanded his people at one time, “Thou shalt not kill,” then at another time, “Make sure you kill every, man, woman, child and infant of the Amalekites” (paraphrased from 1 Samuel 15). I use this example a lot when talking to Christians because it is the strongest example I know of the way they refuse to ackowledge serious problems in the Bible. The first hoop they usually jump through is to say, “God has the right to do whatever he wants.” That was never in question. I’m concerned that he appears to contradict his own law, on the most disturbing level. I mean, if I had to spend an afternoon putting a sword through little babies, just because God told me to, I imagine I would probably want to kill myself. Another hoop is to point out, “The Amalekites were an evil people, and God was using his people to judge them.” Those babies were thoroughly evil, huh? People are not evil because of the race into which they are born. All people are born the same. It’s our experience that determines what we become. Still another hoop is, “You’re judging the ancient world, which was a very different culture, by modern standards.” That might explain why the people dutifully accepted commiting this atrocity, but what we’re dealing with here is the law of God, and God is absolutely righteous and unchanging; culture doesn’t come into it. Finally, the Christian may concede and say, “We just don’t understand these things.” But I decided to say, “Hold on a minute. It just isn’t right to keep ignoring what this is actually saying forever.” And can you really condemn me for that?
We’ve got the more heartwarming story of Abraham and his son Isaac, where God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac to him on an altar. At the last minute, while Abraham is literally holding the knife over his son, God intervenes and tells him to stop. Abraham’s obedience is tested to the ultimate standard, and the readers think, “We knew you weren’t really going to do it, Lord. We know you’re a loving God.” But we’re all too quick to put out of mind the harrowing story of 1 Samuel 15.
Am I against God? No, no, no! My point is, this isn’t the true God; it’s an illusion. The ancient world is filled with stories of cultures sacrificing animals (or people) to so-called gods. I don’t think the God of the Old Testament is any different. I mean, when you read the early books of the Bible, you learn that this religion demands the constant flow of animal blood. What on earth does the infinite, eternal, all-knowing, transcendent God need with the endless slaughter of animals, day in and day out, all year round? “A pleasing aroma to the Lord,” the Bible says. I’ve heard the usual Christian defence of this, of course, that it was a prophetic picture of the death of Christ, sacrificing his life for the sins of man. But that just doesn’t make sense. Millions upon millions of animals had to die over thousands of years for a mere metaphor?
I refuse to ignore these things any more. It’s like I said before. When you dare to deconstruct your belief system and re-examine it without any emotional attachment to it, it all starts to look very different. I can choose to bravely face the implications of this new awareness, or I can cower away because I’m afraid of what people will think of me if I step away from the herd. Likewise, I can be afraid of some eternal punishment on the shaky grounds thats it might be true. It’s one thing to warn someone of an actual, real threat, but another to manufacture the reality of a threat by using a warning.
The pressure to conform never hit me so strongly as it did two days ago, when I was confronted by the pastor and his wife. But I see it for what it is: manipulation through fear. We’re not allowed to make our own minds up. In essence, it’s like a voice in my head saying, “Forget what you’ve learned, Darryl. Forget all your objections and be afraid. Believe what they tell you, because you might be wrong. And if you’re wrong, you’ll end up in hell. Believe in Christianity, Darryl. It doesn’t matter about all that horrific stuff that doesn’t make sense. Don’t think. Just be safe and snug. Take the easy way out and believe.”
I have no doubt that the pastor and his wife would be delighted if I did exactly that. How many Christians actually care why a person believes, just as long as he believes? And they say Christianity isn’t mind-control. Am I going too far? Well, let’s look at how Christianity advances. We have a society today that, in general, doesn’t believe in Christianity, and hasn’t got much of a clue about the Bible. So we assert that the Bible is the word of God, and we present its message, which is essentially, “You didn’t realise this, but God actually holds all your ‘sins’ against you. You are condemned to go to hell when you die. But there is a way out. Turn from your sinful ways and believe that Jesus sacrificed his life to pay the penalty for your sins.” We tell this to our children from a young age, rarely encouraging them to question its validity. This is how Christian families are perpetuated from one generation to the next. “The Bible is the word of God” – that’s the great assumption of our lives, and the starting point we want our children to cling to. Let’s face it, few of us are scholars. I once read a portion of a book on the reliability of these 2,000-year-old manuscripts that we call the New Testament, and the whole topic got so complex that I didn’t know what to think. You’ve either got to assume you’re dealing with the word of God, or not. But if it’s all based on an assumption, how can you condemn someone for choosing a different assumption? Or how do you spread the Christian message to the world when people in general no longer assume the Bible is the word of God? Answer: you use fear. You tell them that the consequences of not believing you are so dire that they must believe. Forget the question of whether it’s true or not – just believe. I ask you, does that sound reasonable?
I hear this all the time from Christians: “I believe the Bible is the word of God.” Well, why do you believe the Bible is the word of God? I don’t believe the Bible is the word of God. And I’ve got reasons for not believing, some of which I mentioned earlier. I actually don’t have a problem with anyone who wants to believe in the Bible. They’re free to believe anything they want to believe. You won’t hear me shouting threats at people, or hanging them out to dry, because they want to believe something different from me. Unfortunately, Christians not only say, “I believe the Bible is the word of God.” They add, “And you too must believe.” In my experience, some Christians will respect a person enough to try and find out where he’s coming from, and to coach him with reasonable arguments towards what they believe. Others don’t care what you believe and just want to metaphorically slap you across the face with “Turn or burn!” My stance is, if all you’ve got behind this is an assumption, you can’t expect the rest of the world to fall into line and see reality as you do. And yet some of my Christian friends will insist on condemning me and holding our friendship to ransom on the condition that I see life in the same way.
This matter of “assumptions” is equally true of me with my belief that we are all one consiousness. I can’t prove it to anyone. And I only “feel” it to be true intuitively. I talk about it because it’s a way of looking at life that helped me be more compassionate to others. And I’m hoping this may be interesting to others who are open to the idea of intuitive knowledge – knowledge that comes from within, from a higher aspect of our consiousness, rather than from our observations on the world around us.
The experience two days ago was actually slightly scary to behold. I realised that the minds of these people had been utterly absorbed by a complex and rigid belief system that was in total control of their actions. And their belief system is just one of countless factions of Christianity – which is why I’m experiencing more tolerant reactions from other Christians. The experience scared me, because I realised I was looking at something that wasn’t so different, in principle, from the religious extremism of the Middle East. I saw that these people would do whatever the word of God (or their interpretation of the word of God) told them to do, no matter what the consequences to those around them. In this instance, the consequence was their denial of me as a friend. I can’t help but wonder what would happen if their own son ever decided to change his worldview. Would they break their own hearts and insist that he move out of the house on principle? I had the scary realisation, “I really don’t know what these people are capable of.” And I’ll never forget that.
As for me, I intend to continue being the open-minded, caring, spiritual person that I am, open to new information, wary of manipulation, always searching for the truth about life. All I can say to the Christians who now find me unacceptable is, “I’m doing what I believe to be right. This is me. Take it or leave it.”