Maybe. Maybe. Just maybe. Maybe...... maybe I've been wrong all these years. That is to say, for most of my life. Worse yet: maybe I've been had. Duped. Deceived. Well and truly. Hook, line, and sinker. You see, maybe there is a God after all. It's just that the real God has nothing - and I mean literally nothing - to do with the God popularly believed in and paraded in the Abrahamic religions of our mainstream cultures.
When I was a wee boy, I was quite a fan of baby Jesus. This, at least, is what I'm told by my sister. Say a bad word about the baby Jesus and you'd get your knuckles religiously rapped. I must have been seven or eight when I started to seriously dismiss the entire thing as nonsense. You don't require overmuch intelligence to work it all out. There were all these stories about Jesus, Moses, prophets, disciples, and the like, dished out as truth but with no reason to believe them. Nobody bothered to explain to me why I should give any more credence to these often bizarre and unpleasant Bible narratives than I should 'Noddy and Big Ears' or 'Thomas the Tank Engine' (both of which were peopled by far more likeable characters than those who turned up in the 'Good Book'). The Bible was this foreboding piece of reading that was invariably bound in sombre black, and you just had to believe it as true. Most strange.
Similarly, this God of the Christian religion. I saw no evidence. Nothing in my feelings or instincts resonated with the notions presented to me by believers. There was, instead, an instinctive turning-away: it did not feel right or true or healthy. This God was a twisted fantasy, nothing more. People who based their life around this make-believe character had to be a bit deficient.
Aged ten I won the Scripture Prize at school. This was more a reflection of the other kids' total lack of application in class than anything to do with me. The short walk onto the school stage to receive my prize - a Bible, of course - was one of the most uncomfortable experiences in the life of the young me. "You've made a horrible mistake. You've got the wrong man. You don't understand." The protests resounded through my mind.
Life as presented appeared to offer a simple choice: Christianity or the rest. This 'the rest' consisted largely of variations on a theme of secular humanism, scientific materialism, atheism, rational agnosticism, and similar. I think you get the picture. I didn't fit into this group very well, either. Despite my outright rejection of Christianity, I felt no kinship with the flat, restrictive, claustrophobic premises of this lot, who left no room for acknowledging the centrality of fantasy, imagination, crazy wisdom: the sort of stuff that's always turning up on Pale Green Vortex.
Years later, I fell in with Buddhism. And Buddhism kind-of took its place quite neatly in this category of 'the rest'. Firstly, it boasted no can't-see-him-anywhere God. Then it didn't require faith in a whole load of beliefs and stories which generally seemed twisted and unhealthy - not the sort of stuff you want to follow in the first place. Finally, Buddhism appeared to be practical and pragmatic. It had a range of practices that you could actually follow, in a suck-it-and-see way. If it works, do it; if it doesn't, move on. Meditation, in particular, stood out as a technique for knowing oneself. I took to it; it seemed to work. Buddhism as working with direct experience seemed brilliant. As the years passed, I came to see that it wasn't quite that simple. But still....
Around five years or so ago, I began to more consciously and systematically undertake a process akin to what the alchemists of old might have called 'purifying the vessel'. This involves removing, dismantling, chucking out, those contents of ones consciousness, as Jung would put it, which are preventing the pure open space of awareness from manifesting. 'Adventitious defilements' is one term that appears somewhere in Buddhism which relates to this phenomenon. A catalogue of attitudes which are generally considered necessary for successful functioning as a human being were investigated and experimented with; some, as a result, were consigned to the dustbin and kicked out. I was forced to face head-on the anxiety which, as an undercurrent, has been my constant companion over the decades. I looked deep into its nature, its inappropriateness, its falseness, and more-or-less eliminated its obscuring activity, on one level at least (I see that it lurks still, but as a totally existential entity).
As a result of these and other endeavours, the space began to clear. There was less separate 'me', distinct from the ebbs and flows, the comings and goings, the unique magic of the sensate moment, than there once was. And, as this space began to clear, two new elements unexpectedly made their presence known.
Firstly, I found a channel of communication opening up with 'Something Else'. At first it was a bit of a secret between 'me' and 'it', almost like a clandestine love affair. What this 'Something Else', this 'Other' is precisely, I have been in no hurry to attempt to define. Higher Self? Holy Guardian Angel? Sophia, Shekinah, Universal Mind? Whatever. An intermittent two-way communication started up, with 'Something' that is both rigorously personal to me and completely impersonal. And before any Bible people get too excited about a Christian awakening on Pale Green Vortex, this 'Something Else' seems to be female, or at least to have a focal feminine component.
The other 'emergence' was the existence of intent in the universe. Through a variety of events involving especially synchronicities I found it increasingly difficult to escape from the sense, the feeling, that there is intent in the universe. Through the various experiences of non-duality and similar that I had had over the decades, intent - purpose - had never come into it. Clear your personal space enough, however, and the universe begins to take interest - as in the previous paragraph, an interest simultaneously highly personal and impersonal - and begins to present signs, challenges, nice experiences and nasty experiences, all with the aim of showing the way, helping you along. The universe wants us to 'grow'. The universe wants everything to grow. The universe needs everything to grow in order to achieve its own fulfilment.
This all sits rather uncomfortably with both sides of the dichotomy that I grew up with: Bible and the Christian God on the one hand, and the rest, including no-god Buddhism, on the other. I am in no mood to attempt a neat reconciliation these days. There are actually aspects of Buddhism which resonate with the experiences I have described - the notion of Universal Bodhicitta is one such - but it seems to me that these have become increasingly marginalised. Western practice of Buddhism has veered in the direction of rationalistic, mental sides to its multifaceted jewel. All too often, Buddhism in modern times is the refuge for those who identify with thought, the rational; in Jung's typology, introverted thinking types. Not the kind to take easily to the notion that the universe possesses purpose.
No. I am left with the feeling - the horrible feeling - that I've been had. For most of my life I've been victim of a false dichotomy. Maybe those crazy Gnostics were right after all. The Christian God, they claimed, is a false god. He is the demiurge, an impostor, a demented lower-level being who is bent on deception. He turns up boasting that he is the god, the only god, the creator of all. The tragedy is that huge portions of humanity fall for his lies. I, too, have been 'had' by the demiurge, in that I have believed that 'God' as presented by him is the true and only notion of God. Like any reasonable person, I have rejected the claims of the demiurge, while failing to see through to the roots of the deception. The demiurge is the pretender par excellence.
'Counterfeit mimickry' - pretending to be something, while really being something else, the opposite, even -, which is what we could call the antics of the demiurge, is not a one-off. It remains a prime tactic in tricking humanity today, leading it astray from its natural way, its 'god-given' sacred path. You take humanity's innate sense of the spiritual - its most valuable asset, if you will - and then you twist it to your own devious ends.
Take, for example, that intuition of one-ness, of the interconnectedness of all life, which finds an echo, however far or faint, in the lives of many, if not all, people. This gets twisted into the modern ideology of multiculturalism, espoused by many dcent, well-intentioned folk nowadays. But they've been had. Oneness is not in the least the same as sameness, which is the hallmark of multiculturalism as presented. It seeks to create uniformity, mediocrity, one-size-fits-all. This is a programme relentlessly pushed by organs of control such as the BBC. Its result is a dead and deadening cultural globalism, brought into being by the artificial removal of distinction - which, paradoxically (or not), is the basis for true 'spiritual growth'.
It's a similar story with ardent forms of feminism, along with the war against gender distinction. These zealous efforts to erode and nullify difference, undertaken in the guise of 'fighting against sexism', have similar aims. Once more, many well-meaning people subscribe to these agendas, but they have been duped. What superficially appears to promote freedom is actually an Orwellian move beyond the wildest dreams of Big Brother in 1984.
This is an exercise in social manipulation built upon a dark distortion, in this case a bastardisation, of what Jungians call 'wholeness'. It is the union of opposites, the divine hermaphrodite and the royal marriage as represented in alchemy, or the yab-yum in tantra. This wondrous flower of the sacred life is corrupted into a monster. The result is a society of men unable to comment that a woman is looking nice today, for fear of ending up with a criminal record. Can a society get more sick than that?
There are other examples, but they can stay in the box for now. This hijacking of our deep-down spiritual sense is one of the darkest aspects of modern culture and politics. The cult of political correctness, in particular, is riddled with this pernicious, soul-destroying virus. It befalls us to, at the very least, look out for it, see it when at work, and free ourselves individually from its toxic influence. It's out to destroy the world of spirit, the spirit of the world.
Top: Geheime Figuren der Rosenkreuzer, Altona, 1785 ('Wisdom is the female emanation of God')
Below: The Temptation of St. Hilarion by D.L.Papety. Scratch beneath the surface, and you find that present-day efforts to eradicate gender distinction are nothing but a continuation for secular times of the Christian 'horror of the temptations of the flesh' crusade. That same visceral unease (dis-ease) with difference and the reactions it evokes. Both are life denying. Both attempt to repress Eros and the sensual.