On Cults and Culture

As I finish reading Going Clear, by Lawrence Wright, an absolutely fascinating glimpse at the world of Scientology, I am struck by our need as a society, as a culture, to figure out whether Scientology is a cult or religion. We don’t like cults; we call them taboo. Ostensibly, we do this because we associate cults with brainwashing or some sort of mental and/or physical torture–coercive techniques to get one to believe in a person or an idea that one would presumably find nonsensical if not for having been tormented into thinking otherwise. That’s a fantastic reason not to endorse cults. However, we live in a culture. Isn’t that an interesting word? It’s got the word cult built right into it.

So, I ask myself, ‘Self?’ I ask me. ‘What is the difference between a cult and a culture?’ If you look up the definition of culture you find that yes, yes, the origin of the word has to do with the cultivation of the soul–but nowadays it has to do with the education of the people. However, since this education is not universal, we can go ahead and add that religious element right back in there, because let’s face it: what we’re educated to and how we’re educated has everything to do with belief. In America, we’re still straddling that line between the old guard of Judeo Christianity and the new guard of science.

All religions, Yes, including Buddhism, came to prominence in different areas of the world at least in part through torturous coercive techniques. The main difference between the Spanish Inquisition and drinking the Jim Jones Kool-Aid is the time of death. So, the difference between a cult and culture?–A cult must engage in coercive techniques to get you to buy their bullshit, while a culture is built upon the foundation of bullshit coercively earned long ago.

Unlike religion, science has a chance to gain preeminence in-and-as a culture on its own merits, but the human drive to believe is overpowering. Science becomes scientism. Or in the case of L. Ron Hubbard, Scientology. If scientists stuck with their ideal of what science is, what they tell the public their life’s work is about, which is basically discovering how everything works, there would be no question of belief. But that isn’t generally what they do. They generally try to boil everything down to a material and mechanical process or an unprovable theory that somehow works out mathematically even if it can’t be demonstrated in reality and then assume that everything that they haven’t discovered will be discovered in one of these ways. So, any information running contrary to their views is considered outlier data is to be scoffed at is to be marginalized is nonsensical. This they call healthy skepticism. You may recognize it by its real name: coercion. In the case of science, the price you pay for unorthodox thought is lack of funding (if you’re a scientist) and being laughed at/made a social outcast (if you’re anyone). New religion. Same techniques.

While scientism may not be as outlandish as Scientology or any of the religious movements we’ve used to tie together clusters of people afraid of  mortality, scientists born of these cultures tend to play by the same rules they were indoctrinated into at birth. This may not be a conscious act, as with the cult leader, but conscious or unconscious the result is the same.

Cults leaders, religious leaders, and scientific leaders claim to have the highest mutually-exclusive truth. In actuality, what they have is the same interest: projecting a dominant standardized meme for people to live by. They only differ in degrees of crazy. That fact in and of itself is crazy.

There’s no point in calling attention to all of the flaws of religions and cults, because I’m sure you’ve thought of them all or heard them all by now. But let me draw attention to something you might not have thought of or heard about regarding how science cannot discover that everything is a material process or a mathematical formula. Perhaps you’ve heard the phrase, Opinions are like assholes: everyone’s got one. We say this to denigrate the subjective experience as if there is an objective experience to be had. Is there? Or is the objective experience the god-ideal of the scientist?

In religion, one can never be godly so one has to set that up as an ideal and strive to be as close to godly as possible. In science, they claim not to hold beliefs–that’s the whole point, right? To do away with beliefs and figure out what’s objectively what? But there is no objective situation to examine. It’s a belief. The scientist creates an ideal called “the objective world” and then downplays the subjective as a thing for assholes. Problem is, the more we come to understand about how the brain works and how human perception works the more we see that how we view the world–including how we store and recall memories–is completely inaccurate by any objective standard. And since all we have to perceive the world with is our inaccurate selves, how could we ever perceive an objective anything with a 100% degree of accuracy?

More concretely, about opinions, science won’t ever be able to tell you why you find one piece of music stimulating and why you find another boring. It doesn’t matter how much your brain lights up under an fMRI while listening to Bach or Bachman-Turner Overdrive, the data will only tell you which part of the brain is being triggered by listening to the song, not why. And not why it makes you feel the way it makes you feel.

Opinions are like assholes: everyone’s got one. And that’s all the proof you need to know that there is more to you than the material processes in the brain/body. But it’s not enough to tell you what that means. And every religion, every cult wants to tell you what that means. Perhaps if there is truth, if there is some objective, universal stage of things… If there is that?–Perhaps it can only be perceived through complete liberation of the conscious and unconscious ways in which we seek it. The first step to figuring that out is to admit the one big secret hiding in all of our coercive chatter. It’s the reason for such chatter and for cults and cultures in the first place: we don’t want complete liberation. We want the ideal of it.

Doing the 1+1 math here, we see that liberation is from the subjective–from the opinion-maker. From you. So, if there is an objective world, you can’t know that you exist in it even if you do exist in it. What are these conscious and unconscious impulses that have to go away if we’re to discover anything beyond them? They’re also you. Who is that scientist scoffing at the worth of the subjective? You. Who is the religious zealot barking down other zealots who don’t believe their zealotry? You.

It’s all subjective. It’s all you.

Get it?

That’s how things are. There is no you apart from the components of you. You are the subjective experience that must surrender to discover if there is anything beyond yourself. You can’t drag the alleged objective to you, for then it enters the subjective sphere and is no longer objective. Right? This is not theory. This is all duh material when correctly stated. I mean just look at it. Duh, right?

So why do we choose duh world over the real?

Every time. Including science.

Throughout the ages.

New disguises.

Same old faces.

Duh.

Welcome to Level III, Ascended Master. Golgon will see you now. He’s over there behind the curtain. If he looks familiar without the smoke and mirrors, that’s because he’s also you. Wanna see a final trick? Read the inscription above the gate to hell. “Abandon hope all ye who enter here.” What is hell to the subjective?

Level IV awaits your answer.

 

 

 

 

The One Question I Am Most Sick Of Answering

The stronger the threat to feeling good about yourself, it seems, the greater the tendency to view reality through a distorting lens.  –  Leonard Mlodinow

The one question I’m most sick of answering that came up again recently is this in all its permutations: Why are you anti-New Age when your experiences sound so New Age?

I imagine this question is being asked by the same 4 or 5 people who stalk me around the internet looking for ways to irk me. Maybe that’s unfair but I dunno. It’s not as though when I’m a guest on talk shows I lead with “I’m anti-New Age… and now here’s my completely New-Age-sounding spiel.” So you’d have to be familiar with me to ask it, right? And if you were familiar with me you’d already know the answer. But even that is a slippery slope because, as a rule, we hear what we want to hear first. I do this, too. I sometimes find myself upset about something someone said or wrote that, upon further inspection, didn’t connote what I originally thought it did. I had an expectation or read into it a tone that didn’t seem to be there the second time around. It is possible that readers and listeners are mistranslating in similar manner or that I’m really bad at communicating the answer clearly. Let me take another stab at it now.

If you experienced something so profound that it gave you the ability to see through other untruthful people who claim to have the same experience, wouldn’t you call them on it? Wouldn’t their lies and delusions be a mockery of the real? Wouldn’t it bother you that when you open your mouth about the real, the person you’re confiding in will likely conjure images of the BS version they had sold to them and lump you in with that crap?

Of course you as a consumer of this stuff have the luxury of lumping us all together and taking from that what you like or what you say works for you. You have the luxury of, for instance, not believing me as you buy book after dogmatic wish-fulfillment book in search of the magical formula that helps you create your own reality. You ever notice how these books tell you that you can do this without ever addressing the bigger question: Should you?

Is it okay to manipulate hard-won mystical knowledge that requires the letting go of self into a scheme to fortify the self and selfish desires?

Is it okay for Westernized people who have shamanic experiences to claim to be shamans when real shamans don’t live in mansions with swimming pools, own cars, or commune with nature in their spare time?

Is it okay for a man to reinvent himself every few years to sell you galactic ambassadorship should your shining lights at the sky with him call aliens down, then sell military whistle blowers, then himself as a man working with governments toward disclosure, then himself as a survivor of the American government’s plot to kill him, then himself as a man writing protocols with aliens, then himself as the man with answers to free energy, then himself as the gatekeeper of an alien corpse?

Was Heaven’s Gate okay? Jonestown? Is this guy?

At some point you have to get real with yourself about what it is you’re doing behind that Everything is love! smile, Princess Unikitty. New Agers tend to think they are above religious zealots because they have seen through the fallacies of orthodox religions. Unfortunately, they went one step too far by replacing the orthodox with the unorthodox. How is giving yourself and those around you daily pep talks about manifesting what you want through focused intent any different than the zealot who babbles on about giving his life to Jesus? That gets boring and tedious for the rest of us–but as with the zealot, don’t dare tell the New Ager that. You will be judged as judgmental, the ultimate sin, and feel the heat of a fiery serpent writhing behind that smile.

Orthodox religions and the unorthodox have flecks of dead Truth sprinkled throughout. (Cannibalism: that’s how they getcha.) But so do our lives without them. Atheists have epiphanies and insights. Inventors bring to the conscious material world metaphors for  unconscious formless truths. You can’t escape what you are but you sure as hell can call it anything else. You can put off direct experience of the transcendent indefinitely. And the best way to do that is to say you’ve read all about it or–better still–already achieved it.

New Age nonsense shares the same language as real mystical discoveries and bends those discoveries to the end of selling desire. I don’t think it makes me a hypocrite to call that out any more than it makes an archeologist a hypocrite for calling out creationists who believe the world was created in six days a few thousand years ago by a god. The difference is that I don’t have a degree you can examine. I don’t have years of education in the works of other people. There is no formal education for this, no peer review of “internal” experience. I could be lying; there is no way for you to verify except through direct experience.

I’m not asking you to take my word that I’m not being hypocritical here. I’m asking that you don’t. Don’t believe me, don’t believe religion, don’t believe New Age, don’t believe atheism, don’t believe agnosticism. Put us all away–yes, me included–because we’re not real for you. Not because you want to know what is real but simply because we are not real. If there is anything that’s real, perhaps it will come uninvited when the wall of belief and expectation is shattered. Perhaps not. But if there is an undefinable timeless greatness that carries in its tide the epiphanies of deep reality that have been killed and stuffed for consumers to decorate their interior domains, how is that living immensity to wash through one clogged with definitions that form the boundaries of psychological time in the not-so-great tiny self?

You can hoard dead treasures to live by or the hoarder can die and in his/her place stands the living, breathing treasure of treasures. That choice and that choice alone is free will. The Christian may murder this Truth and stuff it into a toothy clawed beast called “Born Again.” The New Ager may reel this Truth in and hang it on the mantle as “Enlightenment.”

But when Truth is alive it is you. When Truth is dead it’s a concept. Don’t take my word for it. Don’t take anyone’s.

We are social creatures who form fellowships, discuss things with each other, and form consensus realities through common experiences. It is not a wonder to me why Truth eludes us. It does not live there. It can only be conceptualized and built upon in untruthful ways from there. Truth is antithetical to the lie and the lie is what we live. That’s not a judgment; that’s how it is. It’s a forgone conclusion that we will start this way. But we don’t have to stay this way. We just have to be alone and inwardly silent.

New Age is a noisy communion like any other with the bonus arrogance of believing it’s above that. It’s transcendent.

Mmmm… no. It’s just more you running into the arms of concepts. You are thought. Concepts are thought. It’s not love, it’s narcissism.

The Real Matrix: Mistaking Fractal for Metaphor for Literal

Formless awareness is creating and is all forms. Nothingness/Thingness. These forms make decisions in a manner that reflects their origin. No/Yes. One of these forms, humans, invents a computer that also makes decisions in a manner that reflects origin. Off/On. Blind to real origin, these humans mistake the binary code of their invention for origin. Therefore, that computer is a literal device that has a metaphor attached to it alluding to the fractal workings of reality.

Binary code is not what the universe is made of. Formlessness/form is the whole deal. Whole deal–there’s not even a creator divorced from this. We are not a video game or a hologram. Those are just intellectual expressions of our fundamental nature, which cannot be fully understood by intellect. The intellect can create metaphors for it and find metaphors bubbling to the surface through its inventions because… well… everything is a metaphor for everything else.