Selected Correspondence Peter
PETER to No 1: Surely it’s time to consider a new non-spiritual, down-to earth, approach to becoming free of the human condition of malice and sorrow?
RESPONDENT: Could you simplify your question? I cannot tell whether you are seriously interested in ‘becoming free of the human condition of malice and sorrow’ or whether you are already convinced it is impossible.
PETER: My question was not a rhetorical one but a sincere question asked in a forum that promotes open dialogue and discussion. From my teenage years, as I gradually emerged from the sheltered existence of school and family, I was shocked to discover a world where people fought and killed each other with ruthless efficiency. One of my earliest shocking memories was seeing films of the aftermath of the WW2 concentration camps. This seemed like some dark evil history as I was living in a country largely free of overt violence. Later, my university days were gradually to fill with a wonderful optimism and naiveté as the sixties’ youth revolution gathered momentum. We were going to change the world! Socialism, peace on earth, love, sexual freedom, environmentalism – anything was possible to have or to change. From these heady days I developed a burgeoning interest in finding freedom, peace and happiness.
I marched to stop the Vietnam war, I poster-pasted to save the forests, I grooved to the Rolling Stones in Hyde Park in London, I hung around in Amsterdam, I travelled to the East, I became politically and socially concerned and involved. Remember John Lennon singing ‘Imagine’ or ‘Give Peace a Chance’, or watching Woodstock? We were going to change the world! And then it all started to fade a bit – and I gradually got lost in the ‘real world’, the daily business of wife, two kids and two cars. And then, when that comfortably-numb world crashed, I went through my ‘dark night of the soul’, and I was off to the East with thousands of others on the spiritual path, seduced and fired up by the promise of a New Man, Peace, Love, Utopia and an end to my personal suffering. I’ve thought about those times recently – what happened to the passion, the enthusiasm of those times?
In fact, the whole of the peace revolution of the sixties was simply sucked into the mystery, confusion and ‘mindlessness’ of the Eastern religions. The famed ‘spiritual path’, the Western pursuit and belief in Eastern religion and philosophy, has failed to deliver anything remotely resembling freedom, peace and happiness to humanity. Now that I look back it has failed because there was nothing new, different or original in it at all.
How could the solution lie in the well-tried so-called wisdom of the past? There would have been peace and happiness in the world by now if it worked – it has had at least 3,500 years to prove itself. As Ken Wilber wrote in an issue of ‘What Is Enlightenment’ of the success of Eastern religion –
(For those with a calculator it is 0.0000001 of the total population). This is a stunning figure to contemplate upon.
When I realized that I had simply moved from rejecting Western religious belief as meaningless fairy tale in my youth only to have landed myself in an Eastern religion in my middle years I was shocked. When I realized that millions upon millions upon millions of believers, meditators, devotees, monks and nuns had assiduously trod the spiritual path for thousands upon thousands of years in the East with so little result I was devastated. Eastern religious practice succeeds only in producing an elitist lineage of transcended God-men who then perpetuate their ancient stories, myths and fables to the next generation of gullible believers. I know the system well for I was a gullible believer for some 17 years and was dangerously close to becoming a God-man myself before the warning bells rang and my common sense reasserted itself. As I dug deeper in to spiritual belief I discovered that peace on earth is not even on the agenda of Eastern religions – life on earth is meant to be a suffering existence and it is an endless cycle of misery – it is deemed to be a necessary, essential and unchangeable part of some greater cosmic plan. This ‘necessary suffering’ is the human condition of malice and sorrow and includes all the wars, murders, rapes, tortures, domestic violence, despair and suicide.
Being vitally interested in peace on earth, I decided to question spirituality, the belief in God and the idea of life after death – to dare to question the sacred teachings.
As for – ‘or whether you are already convinced it is impossible (to become free of the human condition of malice and sorrow)’.
It is impossible to bring an end to human malice and sorrow whilst remaining trapped within the human condition and this includes being trapped within any of the multitudinous spiritual belief-systems or mind-sets. Surely 3,500 years of belief, trust faith and hope in Gods, Goddesses, Spirits, Sources, Higher Selfs, Essences, Creators, Doomsdays, Good and Evil, is long enough to declare that the experiment has failed.
Currently some 6 billion human beings are involved in a grim and desperate instinct-driven battle for survival on this planet. The human condition is typified by malice and sorrow and the man-made idyllic antidotes of love and compassion have failed to stem the carnage. It is well-documented that the last century was the bloodiest to date – over 160 million human beings died at the hands of their fellow human beings and over 40 million people killed themselves in suicides – and there is no end in sight. Religion, be it Eastern or Western, actively contributes to this carnage as is evidenced by the countless religious wars, persecutions, recriminations, repressions, ostracizations, denials, retributions, perversions and conflicts that are ever ongoing ... Eastern religion is particularly insidious for it deliberately promotes the practice of turning away and withdrawing from the physical world of people, things and events where we human beings actually live to a spirit-ual, meta-physical world, to an ‘inner’ private isolated world of furtive imagination and impassioned feelings.
So, I am vitally interested in ‘becoming free of the human condition of malice and sorrow’. Becoming free of the human condition of malice and sorrow is to actualize peace on earth, in this lifetime, as this flesh and blood body. It is impossible to become free of instinctual malice and sorrow whilst remaining trapped within the human condition, either battling it out in a grim world ‘normal’ reality or by escaping into an imaginary delusionary Greater Reality by practicing disassociation via denial and transcendence. In the spiritual world, any chance of an actual peace on earth is readily and eagerly forfeited for an imaginary peace after physical death ... or, for the rare few, the chance to become God-on-earth.
Which is why I asked the question for anybody who is interested in peace on earth, in this lifetime –
To do this, sincere seekers of freedom, peace and happiness would have to break through the sacred ceiling that traps them within the human condition. This daring to question the sacred and taking action to break free of ancient beliefs in Gods, God-men and Spirits is analogous to the pioneering women who have had to break through the glass ceiling of religious, social, moral and ethical restraints that bound them to the woodstove and the washing line.
Does that make the question ‘Surely it’s time to consider...’ clearer to you and do you understand why I was moved to ask it of myself? I did say to No. 1 that this was a radical proposition, but spirituality (a belief in God, by whatever name) has had 3,5000 years to deliver the goods and has lamentably failed. There must be something that works and the evidence that peace on earth is possible is startlingly obvious in a pure consciousness experience when the ‘self’ – both as ego and as soul, both as thinker and feeler – is temporarily absent. The pure consciousness experience clearly indicates that peace on earth, an actual end to malice and sorrow, lies in total self-extinction, both ego and soul, not an ego death only, as in an altered state of consciousness.
RESPONDENT: I can see now why I was uncertain where you were coming from in your previous post. As I read through this post I felt pulled between, on the one hand, your spark of revolutionary spirit to realize an end to conflict on earth and on the other a set of fixed ideas about the inadequacy of the spiritual approach to this dilemma.
PETER: By fixed ideas I presume you mean the fact that after 3,500 years of belief, trust, faith and hope in Gods, Goddesses, Spirits, Sources, Higher Selfs, Essences, Creators, Doomsdays, Good and Evil, we are still merely praying for peace on earth, while indulging in the fantasy that the only ‘true’ peace possible is after physical death. The human condition on earth is typified by malice and sorrow and the man-made idyllic antidotes of love and compassion have failed to stem the carnage. It is well-documented that the last century was the bloodiest to date – over 160 million human beings died at the hands of their fellow human beings and over 40 million people killed themselves in suicides – and there is no end in sight. Religion, be it Eastern or Western, actively contributes to this carnage as is evidenced by the countless religious wars, persecutions, recriminations, repressions, ostracizations, denials, retributions, perversions and conflicts that are ever ongoing ... Eastern religion is particularly insidious for it deliberately promotes the practice of turning away and withdrawing from the physical world of people, things and events where we human beings actually live to a spirit-ual, meta-physical world, to an ‘inner’ private isolated world of furtive imagination and impassioned feelings. These are not fixed ideas, these are facts.
Peace on earth is ultimately sacrificed by the utterly selfish pursuit of immortality for one’s soul – ‘who’ one feels one is as opposed to what one actually is, a mortal flesh and blood human being.
RESPONDENT: Hence I was confused as most of your post focused on the latter and covered the passion you claim for liberation of the human spirit.
PETER: No, you are still confused about what I said. It is the ‘passion for liberation of the human spirit’ – the fervent belief in an eternal, timeless, spaceless ie immortal spirit – that compounds and actively contributes to malice and sorrow on earth. Religion, be it Eastern or Western, actively contributes to this carnage as is evidenced by the countless religious wars, persecutions, recriminations, repressions, ostracizations, denials, retributions, perversions and conflicts that are ever ongoing ... Eastern religion is particularly insidious for it deliberately promotes the practice of turning away and withdrawing from the physical world of people, things and events where we human beings actually live to a spirit-ual, meta-physical world, to an ‘inner’ private isolated world of furtive imagination and impassioned feelings.
PETER: As for your second point –
Do you mean Eastern Enlightenment or spirituality in general? Either way, are you saying that all human beings should still believe in, and follow the wisdom of, those on the planet thousands of years ago who claim to have discovered the Truth about human existence on the planet? That what they discovered we should still hold to be sacred and inviolate? That despite the fact that human beings still slaughter each other in horrendous wars over which Truth is the only, true, real or right Truth, we should accept that the current human condition of malice and sorrow represents the pinnacle of human consciousness? That peace on earth is not possible?
I do understand the wonderful feelings and deep emotions that well up when one hears the Truth spoken by some God-man or woman, the blissful states that can be experienced and the altered states of consciousness that can be induced for I have experienced the full gamut over a period of 17 years. But the central message of the Truth – there is life after death and we are just ‘passing through’ before we go to a better place ‘somewhere else’ – is a fairy tale. When I was on the spiritual path it was the best on offer for it pointed to being able to achieve release or freedom for one’s self or soul while on earth, not in heaven. At least it offered succour and a chance to feel good.
But things have moved on, particularly in the last century, and a momentous breakthrough has been made in this last decade that makes the ancient search for a freedom for one’s spirit utterly second-rate. Many, many humans have attempted to break the stranglehold that ancient belief and mysticism has always held over the human search for freedom, peace and happiness and, the time being right, it has finally happened.
I was struck with the same reaction as you when I first came across this third alternative but, as I had some doubts about the spiritual path anyway, I was prepared to investigate further to see if what was proposed made sense.
RESPONDENT: It may be that we mean different things by ‘ego’. Ego is often used as a synonym for self, but to me ‘ego’ simply denotes a constructed thing in psychological space, in the same way that ‘house’ denotes a constructed thing in physical space. ‘Self’ is the supposed real and independently existing entity or being I take myself to be. That self rests on a sense of identity with some thing, or set of things – my house, my ego, my soul, my idea that I Am. In the course of practice, both material and mental things are seen to be neutral in themselves, fundamentally insubstantial and not capable of providing a convincing basis for a real self. There is no need to take quarrel with houses or egos or altered states per se as obstructions to freedom; the obstruction lies in taking these things to be real and substantive, us and ours. Since the sense ‘I Am’ is itself an idea, then the self can be dropped without the need to demolish anything other than the delusion that supported it: the thinker and feeler can be absent without annihilating thinking and feeling.
Rather than ego death, I think that for the practical purpose of living in the world, just as it is useful to have a house with walls and a roof to offer shelter against the elements, so it is useful to have a sound and mature ego structure to enable us to act with optimum wisdom and compassion, to express the goodness and Love of Truth with least distortion. What is not needed is the self arisen from identifying with the ego because that leads straight into conflict, greedy consuming, fighting and defending. Being free of attachment to substance and self in physical or mental things means we do not believe that the building defined by the walls of the house is independently real or absolute, we are not fooled into believing that the person defined by the egoic boundaries is a separately existing being. Knowing the true nature of things we can live peacefully and joyfully within the world, using everything skilfully for the welfare of all.
PETER: Well I don’t doubt the sincerity of your beliefs but the fact of the matter is people are not living peacefully and joyfully in the world.
It is well-documented that the last century was the bloodiest to date – over 160 million human beings were killed by their fellow human beings and over 40 million people killed themselves in suicides – and there is no end in sight to this human slaughter and bloodlust. These are real human beings, on this planet and not illusionary human beings, in an illusionary world. That means at least 200 million of today’s children will suffer a similar fate.
I know that while I was in the spiritual world I had the feeling that if only everyone could feel what I feel then the world would be awash with peaceful and loving people. But I eventually became aware that this feeling was still self-centred, ego-centric, me-oriented, ‘inner’, private, etc. It was after all, only a feeling that ‘I’ had, not a fact that I or anyone else I had met, or read about, was living. The other fact that shook me up was that a sincere Christian has the same feeling, a sincere Buddhist has the same feeling, a sincere Muslim has the same feeling and yet when push comes to shove people are willing and eager to kill and die for their beliefs – so passionately and fervently do they believe in their feelings and their Truth or God. This is not only a well-documented historical fact, it is clearly in operation today amongst the New Dark Age religions. In the town where I live the Rajneeshees are involved in public conflict with the Poonjarians, the Course of Miracle followers are squabbling with the Christians, and the splits and chasms that are inevitably forming amongst the followers within the various spiritual groups, particularly after their Guru dies, are anything but peaceful or joyful. When I was on the spiritual path I always felt that ‘my’ Guru, ‘his’ teaching, which became my Truth, was superior to everyone else’s belief – this is the very nature of spiritual belief for one is extolled to trust one’s feelings, have faith, and above all, don’t doubt (which means don’t dare question the teacher or the teachings).
I know that you have these affective experiences, knowings and feelings of goodness and Love of Truth (God by another name), for I have had them myself – I know them well. But the fact is that religion, be it Eastern or Western, actively contributes to malice and sorrow as is evidenced by the countless religious wars, persecutions, sacrifices, penances, recriminations, repressions, ostracizations, denials, retributions, perversions and conflicts that are ever ongoing ...
What has always been avoided up until now is the fact that the affective instinctual passions are the root cause of human malice and sorrow – the loves and loyalties, impulses and urges, ideals and beliefs that human beings are willing and eager to fight and kill for, or to suffer and die for. One’s own ‘self’-inflicted problems lie in the feelings and emotions that arise from the animal instinctual passions – and the PCE experientially confirms this fact.
The ancient eastern philosophers, being ignorant of modern empirical scientific research that establishes that fear and aggression, nurture and desire are genetically instilled characteristics, wrongly assumed that wrong or evil thinking was the source of malice and sorrow. Some 3,500 years on, in these modern times, we now know from the empirical research of LeDoux and others, that it is the instinctual passions that infiltrate thought and are experienced as emotions and felt as feelings are the source of human malice and sorrow. It is vital to explore and investigate the affective feelings and emotions that arise from the instinctual animal passions – both the supposed ‘good’ and the supposed ‘bad’ – for the secret to becoming actually free of malice and sorrow lies in this very exploration.
It is essential to understand and fully comprehend that one’s feelings and emotions are part and parcel of the Human Condition and not a personal fault, failure, stigma or ‘evil’. Fear, aggression, nurture and desire are innate passions that every human being is programmed with by blind nature. This program is automatic and often psychic in nature, it is programmed within the primitive or reptilian brain and ‘felt’ in the body due to the resulting chemical surges. This blind and senseless survival program can now be safely deleted for the human species has not only survived ... it is now beginning to flourish.
We humans simply need to abandon the old ancient mystical beliefs in ‘other worlds’ cooked up by long dead shamans to instil fear in others in order to maintain their power or inane philosophies dreamed up by fearful monks in order to while away their timeless hours. It’s time to stop praying for peace, roll up our sleeves and get stuck into the job at hand – to contribute to peace on earth in the only way possible by totally eradicating malice and sorrow from within ourselves.
RESPONDENT: It is true that we each will become free, but only when we graduate. The ‘undergraduate’ always goes through a stage where he believes the curriculum and infrastructure needs changing. It is a great awakening to realize that all is perfect, even these well meaning and painful attempts to alter the ‘status quo’.
PETER: Would you tell the children in Bosnia, Sierra Leone, Angola, Northern Ireland, North Korea, Chechnya, Kashmir, Palestine, Eritrea, etc. that they should just realize ‘all is perfect’? This ‘all is perfect’ philosophy was invented in the East by reclusive monks who were provided with money, wealth, food and sustenance by others and then spent all day in sheltered seclusion from the evils of the world looking ‘inside’ for perfection.
This is called denial and dissociation and is now practiced in the West by spiritual seekers who ‘turn off’ their television sets, if they own one, ‘tune out’ from the world of people, things and events and ‘tune in’ to an ... ‘individual ‘inner’ reality’ ... to use your words.
RESPONDENT: It is a wonderful experience to slow the process of thought down enough to break that cycle. You are given an awakening to a new dimension to you very being.
PETER: And thus peace on earth – the ending of human malice and sorrow – is willingly and eagerly forfeited for one’s own wonderful thoughtless and impassioned experience of being divine and immortal. Over 160 million human beings were killed by their fellow human beings in wars and an estimated 40 million humans killed themselves in suicides in the last century and those who supposedly are the ‘caring ones’ are beguiled and ensnared by Eastern spirituality and blissful ‘other-worldly’ experiences. To actively practice a so-called attentiveness based on ignoring and denying any feelings of anger and sorrow in oneself is but to turn away and stick one’s head in the clouds. I know what I am speaking about for I know well the seductive wonderful experiences and I know that what I was doing was more and more turning away from, and becoming dissociated from, the world of people, things and events.
For peace on earth to be actualized, the spiritual predilection for thoughtless behaviour and impassioned ‘self’-ish feelings must be abandoned and we must now look to a combination of knowledge, experience and technique to tackle the elimination of animal instinctual passions in human beings. This is the challenging pioneering work for those who are willing to put their concern for their fellow human beings above their own innate self-ishness ... or their passionate desire for Self-realization.
PETER: Gods and God-men, shamans and priests have forever demanded that their followers be empty whereas what they are saying is fill the emptiness you feel inside with the feeling of God or Being or Is-ness. This is not being empty inside, as in ‘self’-less, this is being full inside as in ‘self’-fulfilled or ‘Self’-satisfied.
PETER: Gods and God-men, shamans and priests have forever demanded that their followers seek stillness of thought and thinking so as to allow the traditional, much sought after, feelings of fullness, completeness, wholeness, oneness, timelessness and spacelessness to come welling in to fill ‘the void’. In the East millions of monks have isolated themselves from the world and practiced sitting with their eyes closed for hours upon hours as a way to achieve the prized feeling of stillness. From isolation, sensory deprivation and physical pain comes the relief of stillness and, if one is passionate enough, the prize of feeling Fullness.
PETER: Gods and God-men, shamans and priests have forever demanded that their followers abandon any notions of actualizing peace on earth for what they preach is a feeling of ‘inner’ peace as an escape from the necessary suffering and inherent evil of the world and they dangle the alluring promise of an eternal peace after physical death.
It really matters not a fig what the faithful feel or preach, for they are but supporting the religious wars of the Gods and the petty battles of the Gurus. But for someone who is genuinely interested in peace on earth, the true messages of spiritual/ religious teachings are worthy of serious scrutiny rather than blind unquestioning loyalty.
PETER: Gods and God-men, shamans and priests have forever demanded that their followers feel there is only ‘one’, for usually they are the representatives of the ‘One’, they are in tune with the ‘One’, ‘One and I are best mates’ or even ‘I am the only One.
As for the feeling of oneness – why is it that despite these grandiose feelings of ‘we are all one’ in the spiritual/religious world, there are still petty battles between Gurus, ongoing religious wars between Gods. Not even two people can live together in utter peace and harmony, let alone any spiritual/religious community.
RESPONDENT: The great human adventure is to travel up the stem of the lotus plant until we reach the state of the flower (enlightenment) and are free of the mud (material world) at the bottom of the pond.
PETER: My radical proposition is that all the facts point to the unmitigated failure of this ‘great human adventure’ that has been on-going for thousands of years. T’is but a tragic human struggle betwixt good and evil based upon a fervent belief in a higher ‘spirit-world’ that is above and beyond the earthly ‘mud’. There is no good or evil in the actual world – it exists only in the heads and hearts of human beings
Should we humans give the ‘great human adventure’ of following the spiritual teachings another millennium to deliver the goods? Perhaps two ...? Should we wait for Christ to come back, Maitreya to finally appear or for everyone on the planet to become magically enlightened? How long are we willing to continue with this ‘great human adventure’? The New Dark Age has now been superseded by the Next Age in some countries, so do we mark that bit of the adventure as a failure or do we look forward, with hope, that the Next Age will bring peace on earth?
RESPONDENT: In terms of the 60’s movement, it is most certainly not dead, but lives on in a million small ways in many organizations and government departments, schools, etc. But we, as humans, are so impatient for it to revolutionize our world, that we feel disillusioned by its slow progress, especially as we see the devastation of war and pollution.
PETER: Again my question would be how long do we wait – isn’t 3,500 years being patient enough? And who or what are we waiting for?
What got me off my bum, and my head out of the clouds, was – accepting the down-to-earth challenge that if I couldn’t live with one other person in utter peace and harmony, equity and parity, 24 hrs. a day, every day, then life on earth was indeed a sick joke. I took peace on earth as a personal challenge.
RESPONDENT: Intelligence and gentleness will win out and the pain of the current age will be largely forgotten.
PETER: Again do you have a time frame for this to happen? Human malice and sorrow has been on-going, and despite all the good intentions, prayers, consciousness-raising, trust, faith, hope and belief the last century was the bloodiest to date. Given that at least 160 million human beings died in wars in the last century and at least 40 million human beings killed themselves in suicides, that means at least 200 million children born this century will meet a similar fate.
I recently saw an interview with a monk who said that the first question he was going to ask God was ‘how come there is so much pain and suffering?’ Given that God is a fantasy the question to ask is ‘Why am I malicious and sorrowful ... and what can I do about it?’
RESPONDENT: We can see in our modern world many signs that humans are becoming more and more conscious of the need to reform human characters and solve our problems with dialogue, not violence.
PETER: Usually we divide our instinctual passions into groupings of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ and try either to repress or deny the ‘bad’ ones – fear and aggression – while giving full vent and validity to the ‘good’ ones – nurture and desire. Unfortunately the well-meaning attempt to curb fear and aggression by moulding ‘good’ and ‘loving’ citizens has had precious little success as is evidenced by all the wars, murders, rapes, tortures, domestic violence, corruption, loneliness, despair and suicides that are still endemic on the planet. The passions of love and hate, forgiveness and retribution, compassion and selfishness, etc. come inseparably in pairs, as is testified by the continual failure of humans to live together in anything remotely resembling peace and harmony. We still rely on lawyers and laws, courts and jails, police, armies and guns to enforce law and order – a poor substitute for actual peace and harmony. The failure of morals, ethics, values and ideals to bring anything remotely resembling peace to this fair planet is legendary. The currently fashionable ideal of Human Rights serves only to reinforce the rights of various ethnic, religious and territorial groups to firstly, hold conflicting beliefs and then, to fight for those beliefs. Retribution is also highly valued as the right to ‘justice’ and, as such, resentments and grievances between rival groups of humans or individuals are passed down from generation to generation.
When appeals to moral and ethical values fail to end human conflicts, temporary ceasefires are maintained at the point of a gun. Whenever conflict erupts again a truce is then renegotiated and a ceasefire reinforced and the whole cycle of suppression, justice and retribution is set in motion yet again. Given the human genetic-heritage of animal instinctual passions, it is a tribute to human perseverance and stubborn will that the species has survived and flourished as well as it has. It is obvious that a new solution needs to be found, for the traditional solution of instilling unliveable ethics, preaching pious morals and maintaining law and order at the point of a gun has clearly failed in the past, is still failing, and always will fail to bring actual peace on earth. The next great challenge for human beings in this time of increasing safety, comfort, leisure and pleasure is to eradicate and eliminate human malice and sorrow. To do this means to actively challenge and confront the ‘mother of all beliefs’ – that ‘you can’t change human nature’.
The questions I asked myself were ... ‘why not?’ ... and ‘who said you can’t?’
RESPONDENT: Just in my area, the West Island of Montreal, I can count hundreds of mini-organizations (tens of thousands of people) involved in fighting poverty, pollution, war, etc. It won’t be long that the material world will collapse and a new kind of thinking will replace it.
PETER: I would put it to you that if you believe and pray that the material world will collapse – an apocalyptic scenario – then you believe and wish that billions of human beings will undergo immense suffering, pain, injury, death and hardship in the resulting chaos. This is old religious fear-ridden doomsday thinking, designed to put the fear of God in ancient people. This is old superstitious belief, not ‘a new way of thinking’. A genuinely ‘new way of thinking’ will only eventuate as individual human beings ‘get down and get dirty’ and get on with the job of firstly freeing themselves from ancient belief and superstition and then freeing themselves from the crippling effect that the emotions that arise from the instinctual passions have on their own thinking and actions.
The other relevant point is that in my years of being involved in ‘fighting’ for an end to war, for the environment, for my spiritual beliefs, I came to see that I was, in fact, fighting someone else. Any protests were angry protests either covertly felt or overtly expressed. It was always ‘someone else’s fault’, someone else who was ‘bad’, someone else who was ‘wrong’, someone else who was angry, someone else who was not aware or conscious enough. Realizing this fact was essential in understanding that the only one I can change is me and, if I’m sincere in my interest in peace on earth, then I had better get on with proving it is possible.
RESPONDENT: But you are right that ‘spirituality’ is not the be-all-and-end-all, it is one facet of change.
PETER: No, I didn’t say that at all. My point is that ‘spirituality’ – the ancient belief in God, Gods, spirits and other worlds – has miserably failed to bring peace on earth. In fact, if you read the ancient texts peace is not even on the spiritual agenda. Spirituality, rooted as it is in ancient belief, is not a facet of change – it is, and has always been, a fear-driven force of resistance to change.
RESPONDENT: Others are laws, globalization, the Internet, Greenpeace, educational and scientific advances – in fact, we are all, even those who seem to be going in the opposite direction, part of this great drama which will end in World Peace. Please, let’s pray for it to come soon!!
PETER: Okay. ‘Laws’ are maintained by armed police, lawyers, courts, fines, goals, and they do manage to keep the lid on overt violence in many countries. But I fail to see how the threat and imposition of punishment can bring about a genuine freedom, peace and happiness. A little reading of what happens to the rule of law, morals and ethics in times of threat or war will point to what a fragile system we live under. ‘Civilization’ is indeed a thin veneer.
‘The Internet’, on the other hand, is proving to be a remarkable network whereby we humans can share our experiences and knowledge as to what works and what doesn’t work in order that we do not unnecessarily repeat the mistakes of the past. It can be a remarkable facilitator of change. This mailing list that dares to question ‘What is Enlightenment?’ is an example of a free, open and world-wide exploration that would have been impossible only a few short years ago.
‘Globalization’ – the increasing world-wide trade of goods, information, knowledge and resources, the standardization of laws, language and culture and the phenomenal speed of global communication, all act to break down the tribal differences that have plagued human existence. But all does not bode well for economic pragmatism, for there is an emotional backlash as people fearfully seek their roots in the past and return to old tribal cultures and superstitions. The bold post WW2 idea of a united Europe seems to be now fading as even smaller regions within countries seek ‘autonomy’. I also find it kind of cute that many of the people who claim to feel that ‘we are all one’ or ‘the earth is all one living organism’ are often the ones who rile against the practical manifestation of one species of humans on the planet – fellow humans beings who happen to live somewhere on the globe.
‘Greenpeace’ is an organization that proudly fights for the environment, confronting others who they see as wrong or doing evil. Environmentalism has now gained the trappings and status of a full-blown pantheist religion, whereby the planet is seen as a living entity, populated by earth spirits and energies and we humans are made guilty, once again, for being here. Environmentalists continually present doomsday prophecies as scare tactics, they eagerly accept and promote any theory that supports their passionate belief, continually rile against non-believers and actively resist any progress or change – all signs of religious fervour in action.
As for ‘educational’ changes, I see the Internet as the best thing to happen in the free exchange of information since the invention of the printing press.
As for ‘scientific advances’, I concur, with the proviso that one ignores the fanciful theories and imaginary postulations of theoretical mystical science that is currently fashionably influenced by Eastern philosophy and religion – theoretical cosmology and theoretical physics are particularly suss. Empirical science, largely practiced by engineers and chemists investigating, manipulating and constructing wonderful things from the elements of this planet, is indeed bringing to human beings unprecedented levels of safety, comfort, leisure and pleasure. In fact, it is empirical science that is now providing the evidence as to the source of human malice and sorrow – the genetically inherited animal instinctual passion.
And now that we have empirical scientific evidence of what causes we humans to be malicious and sorrowful, it’s simply a matter of acknowledging the facts, abandoning all the failed old spiritual theories and solutions and real-world theories and solutions, and – for those intrepid adventuresome pioneers – setting about the process of deleting this redundant instinctual programming.
RESPONDENT: What amazes me is that very few people take into consideration what enlightenment, ego-lessness, emptiness means in terms of other people. May be I’ll feel this and that, experience this and that, but like my Dad used to say: ‘What good is it, if I don’t benefit from your wisdom?’ (He’d use that at the end of just about any argument I had with him and it really enraged me back then, but today I wonder. I actually think he’s right.)
So what about that? I find that just about the most challenging thing of all.
PETER: My father’s only words of advice to me were ‘it doesn’t matter what you are in life, or what you do – just be happy’. Of course, he didn’t offer any advice as to how to be happy for he didn’t know, but his words did stick with me. He had fought for God and country in the jungles during WW2, had provided for wife and 2 kids and was a good community member, but was dead by age 45 – so his whole life was involved in doing his male duty for others, both socially and instinctually.
However, I always suspected his advice essentially came out of his war experiences for there was a touch of ‘get it while you can, life is short’ about his words. I always suspected the 60’s and 70’s peace movement that blossomed amongst the children of those who fought, suffered and died in WW2 received covert support from some parents who endorsed the passionate drive for an end to the endless cycle of wars, conflicts, recrimination, retribution and suffering.
It’s interesting that the peace movement should have been be sucked into a spiritual movement where all earthly existence is upheld as essential suffering and the solution to conflict and unhappiness is taught to be a withdrawal from the physical world and the physical body – a turning inside into a metaphysical, feeling-only world of ancient fairy tales, beliefs in Gods and an ultimate peace only after death.
Eastern religion and wisdom has been around for over 3,000 years with billions of followers and millions of ardent practitioners and has done bugger all good for people on the planet. The East is a cesspool of repression, suppression, bigotry, conflict, superstition, renunciation, corruption, deceit, pious righteousness, etc., exactly as the West, and so much of this appalling misery is the direct result of following ancient wisdom and religious belief.
We would do well to learn from the failures of the past – to have the courage to free ourselves of the dissolute fallacious wisdom of the Ancient Ones and to set about the pioneering work of becoming actually free of the encumbering Human Condition we find ourselves entrapped in.
T’is the most challenging urgent enterprise on the planet and, as is evident and readily apparent from one’s pure consciousness experiences, ‘self’-sacrifice – both ego and soul – is the most worthwhile contribution one can make to actualizing peace on earth.
RESPONDENT: Universal life, Oneness includes all dimensions of being, to try denying anything is to live in fear of it ... including your emotions.
PETER: I see you have reduced your position about peace on earth to a simple one-line statement. I do appreciate you clarifying your position.
By the term ‘Universal life, Oneness’ you are no doubt referring to a universal force, energy or unifying feeling – i.e. God by another name.
By the term ‘all dimensions of being’ you are no doubt referring to ‘all that is’ on the planet – including all the wars, rapes, murders, tortures, conflicts, poverty, tyranny, corruption, religious persecution, sadness, depression and suicides.
By the term ‘to try denying anything is to live in fear of it’ you are espousing the Eastern religious and philosophical view of acceptance of all that is. I don’t know if you have been to the East but this attitude of acceptance is typified by a shrug of the shoulders, a wobble of the head or a vague waving of the arms to indicate a helplessness at being able to do anything about one’s lot in life or to change anything. Acceptance runs deep in the East and includes the hapless and helpless concept of re-incarnation in an endless cycle of earthly suffering.
Your stated position about peace on earth can be summarized as – God is everything and we therefore should accept everything as it is and not try and change anything. What everyone misses when they take on Eastern belief is that this act of acceptance of the way things are includes denying that we humans are able do anything to change the way things are.
Acceptance always comes hand in glove with denial of the possibility of changing the way things are.
And as you said – ‘to try denying anything is to live in fear of it’. The fear of change runs deep in humans particularly when it involves radical and fundamental change. To accept all the wars, rapes, murders, tortures, conflicts, poverty, tyranny, corruption, religious persecution, sadness, depression and suicides as simply the way things are and thus deny the possibility that peace on earth is possible is a deeply cynical outlook on life.
A constant theme in your posts is your use of the statement that to ‘deny anything is to live in fear of it’. What got me off my bum and my head out of the clouds was that I stopped denying the fact that I was as mad and as bad as everyone else on the planet.
By taking this fully on board it became glaringly obvious to me that only a complete, utter and radical change would bring me peace on earth in this lifetime and the only thing stopping me was fear. And, as you know, complete utter and radical change is ‘self’-immolation and not the usual finding solace and succour in religious belief and spiritual experiences.
It’s enough to put the wind up anyone, really, but the rewards are commensurate with the fear faced, for actual peace on earth lies beyond psychological and psychic death.
RESPONDENT: My perspective is somewhat different from what I have been reading here. I, too, have had many awakening experiences over a span of 35 years. I, too, have seen the madness of believing in gods, heaven worlds and all that. It is very clear that religion has failed to bring about anything close to peace, and in fact has caused far more suffering than any other system in the world. I saw this many years ago and knew that if I was to find the truth it would have to be just seeing the facts as clearly as possible.
PETER: Sounds a sensible approach to me but what I came to see was that I didn’t have to see a fact, a fact is something that already exists and I simply had to acknowledge it. I am not being pedantic here but many people ‘see’ fairies, goblins, ghosts, Santa Claus, flying saucers and all sorts of apparitions but that doesn’t necessarily make them factual. All of these seeings are culturally, religiously or historically influenced. A follower of Eastern religion and philosophy doesn’t hear the Voice of God, a Christian doesn’t feel Buddha in his heart and 19th Century people saw horse and carts in the sky and not flying saucers.
A fact, on the other hand, stands by itself whereas any belief is nonsensical. By its very nature a belief is not factually true ... otherwise it would not need to be believed to be true. A fact is obvious; it is out in the open, freely available for all to see as being true. To believe something to be true is to accept on trust that it is so. A fact does not have to be accepted on trust – a fact is candidly so. A fact is patently true, manifestly clear. A fact is what is ascertained sensately and thus demonstrably true. A fact has actual verity, whereas a belief requires synthetic credence.
Something I am curious about is that you stated that –
and yet you continued on following Eastern religion and philosophy. Did you not see the madness in Eastern religion or was your seeing based on a rejection of the Western religious world-view and the adoption of the Eastern religious world-view? Many spiritual seekers tend to wear rose coloured glasses when looking at the East and fail to see the appalling ignorance, arrogance, oppression, poverty, class structure and religious persecutions that is the result of thousands of years of intense devotion and practice of Eastern religions and philosophy. It is only now that some brave scholars are beginning to question, investigate and document the Eastern religious ‘madness of believing in gods, heaven worlds and all that’. Two of the studies that I found particularly revealing about the Zen tradition is ‘Zen at War’ by Brian Victoria Weatherhill, 1997 and ‘The Rape Of Nanking’ (The Forgotten Holocaust of World War I) – Iris Chang, Basic Books, 1997, http://www.darkzen.com/.
Methinks the next generation may not be so blindly infatuated with the East as ours was.
RESPONDENT: It was only then that life started to show where the real problems were and what could be done about them. I will try to condense what I have come to see in as few words as I can. After my first awakening/ satori/ enlightenment it was clear that life was one. That some how all the seeing of separate parts was a trick of the thinking mind. This left me with a deep love for all being, but it also brought up more questions. It had turned my life inside out.
PETER: When you say ‘it was clear that life was one’ you must be referring to a feeling that life was one. As I look about me I see that there are 6 billion human beings on the planet all battling it out in a grim instinctual battle for survival. And this same battle has been going on for millennia while half the world thinks that suffering is God’s way of testing us and violence is the work of the Devil, and the other half keeps insisting it is all an illusion.
The fact that over 160,000,000 human beings have been killed by their fellow human beings in wars in the last century alone, that over 40,000,000 humans killed themselves in suicides and that over 1,000,000,000 human beings were affected by warfare belies you feeling that ‘life is one’. These are flesh and blood human beings, not illusionary and not ‘a trick of the thinking mind’. And much of the killing was done in the name of love, be it earthly or Divine. (...)
RESPONDENT: The fear that we are nothing can rarely surface. As soon as some doubt starts to arise it is blocked so we never see what is really going on. We add all sorts of other identities to our own false sense of self to help us feel we are in fact who we think we are. We cling to ‘our’ family, ‘our’ country, ‘our’ race, and on and on always trying to build up walls of ‘us’ against ‘them’. There is in reality no such entity. All wars, all hatred, all suffering ultimately comes from that process.
PETER: I see you are claiming there is no such entity as ‘our own false sense of self’ thereby obviously implying that either there is a real sense of self or a real self. The great realization in the spiritual world is that there is a false self who is an illusion because ‘it’ lives in the illusionary physical world but there is a Real self who lives in the Real spiritual world.
The spiritual view is that ‘I’ as the thinker is the issue and then one is extolled to actively encourage ‘me’ as the feeler to run rampant. My experience when I started to run with the question ‘How am I experiencing this moment of being alive’ was that it was feelings which continually and relentlessly emerged as my experiencing. Thus ‘I’ needed to feel grateful for being here in order to transcend the underlying feeling of resentment at having to be here at all, and ‘I’ needed to feel love in order to bridge the gulf that ‘I’ as an alien entity feel between ‘me’ and other human beings. ‘I’ feel compassion for others as a way of being able to indulge my own feelings of sorrow and ‘I’ feel indignant when someone else suffers injustice as ‘I’ really like a good fight. ‘I’ am ever fearful of what others think of me or feel about me, ‘I’ am ever on guard, ‘I’ am ever ready to defend myself against having ‘my’ feelings hurt. ‘My’ ploys are many in the battle with others – confrontation, withdrawal, snide remarks, denial, a bit of undermining, a bit of cutting down to size, a bit of a whinge to someone else – ‘I’ can be as cunning as all get-out in these battles, if need be.
‘I’ readily believed in the spiritual beliefs and wallowed in the blissful feelings as a welcome escape from everyday reality and the promise of an after-life was poetry to ‘my’ ears and salve to ‘my’ heart. ‘I’ felt deep-down that there was no hope for Humanity and no hope for me, and from these feelings were born a desperate belief in an after-life as an escape from the despair of life on earth. The list goes on and on as ‘I’ fight it out for survival with others in a grim world, and ‘I’ will ultimately do anything to stay in existence. ‘I’ am rotten to the core – the combination of animal instinctual passions and an ability to think and reflect make the human animal not only malicious but cunningly malicious. This lethal combination allows the human species not only to wage wars, inflict genocide, rape, murder, torture and pillage to a scale unprecedented in any other animal species but allows for the psychic warfare and power battles, blatant denial, fantasy escapes, corruption, deception and deceit that is endemic in all human interactions.
It soon became obvious to me that freedom from being an identity – social and animal-instinctual – was the only way to get free of this constant emotional churning and the constant selfishness of indulging in denial and fantasy escapism.
You are firstly inventing a ‘false sense of self’ and then you go through a process that leads you to declare ‘there is in reality no such entity.’ Thus your real self is then free to blame the ego or false self as the reason for ‘all wars, all hatred, all suffering’. Thus your real self survives as an increasingly dissociated and disembodied entity and meanwhile ... ‘all wars, all hatred, all suffering’ continue given that the real culprit has got off scot-free
RESPONDENT: I felt it was wrong of the group to not print your response to what I wrote, but I understand why they didn’t.
PETER: Perhaps you could enlighten me as to your understanding of why they didn’t and as to why you didn’t express your feelings to the group. As it is, your false assumptions and aspersions about me, as well as your spiritual-therapy assessment remain unanswered on the list.
RESPONDENT: First I would like to say that we are more alike in our thinking than not. I, too, am a product of the 60’s, and 50’s, and I had, and still have, all the feelings about the way this world is ran by our governments.
PETER: No, No 8, we are not alike in our thinking. I gave up blaming others for the violence and suffering in the world and saw that I was the cause of violence and suffering for those very same feelings were in me. It was only by firmly grasping this fact, which is startlingly obvious in a pure consciousness experience, was I able to even begin doing something about it. It was only by seeing the inherent power and crippling humility that causes so much malice and sorrow in the spiritual world, which was startlingly obvious in the pure consciousness experiences I had while in the spiritual world, was I able to dig myself out of religious/ spiritual belief and to begin to tackle both the good and bad emotions in me that give rise to human malice and sorrow.
RESPONDENT: I have also seen what a mess we are in and how much needless suffering is going on and want only to see an end to it.
PETER: I don’t doubt the sincerity or fervour of your belief. All the priests, shamans, God-men, Gurus, Enlightened Ones and their followers for thousands of years, have offered the same spiritual message and yet the last century was the bloodiest to date. (...)
RESPONDENT: This is all too important to take lightly. We either change ourselves, which will change the world, or we go on destroying this beautiful planet and cause untold suffering.
PETER: On this we agree. My point was exactly this –
Your immediate response was seemingly unequivocal –
Since then you have been attempting to defend the indefensible by somehow excluding Eastern religion from your statement even to the point of declaring your own teachings non-spiritual and even humbly down-grading your own Enlightenment.
PETER: There is no substitute for a sensible discussion based on facts in order to decide what works and what doesn’t work to bring peace on earth.
RESPONDENT: Of course, that is what I try to do. But if who I am trying to communicate with is so dead set on a belief what can I do? Of course, that is how many people may see me, and most likely do. Which is always a problem because there are truths that are facts that I couldn’t change and wouldn’t change. To those I speak to about these truths I may seem dogmatic. That is why I say you have to find this out for yourselves. I can’t do anything but point.
PETER: Okay. The one truth you seem most consistent about is the truth that your being is one with life or all creation. You also say everybody else’s being is one with all except that they haven’t realized it, or awakened to the fact, like you have. Now the realization of this truth is common to religious experiences both in Western religions as in – ‘We are all God’s children’ and in Eastern religion as in – ‘We are all One’ or ‘We are all Buddhas’. And yet, despite this realization in many teachers and their followers, a Buddhist still steadfastly remains a Buddhist, a Christian steadfastly remains a Christian, a Cohenite steadfastly remains a Cohenite, or the teacher immediately sets up his or her own teachings which he or she steadfastly insists is different from all the rest of the spiritual/ religious teachings.
As you said in a recent post to the list –
You too seem to have been compelled to set up your own independent shop despite your realization that we are all one. Does this not seem a glaring contradiction between your realization and your subsequent actions?
This irrefutable pattern of behaviour, evident across all cultures and religions, makes a mockery of the realization that ‘We are all One’ for none of the Awakened or Realized Beings put their money where their mouth is, or should I say where their feelings are. And as we both know, this dogmatic insistence on the uniqueness of various religious teachings and experiences is the very stuff that breeds religious division, conflict and war.
RESPONDENT: Sweden calling! (born Finn though). Just to let you know that my native language isn’t English and that might explain some misspellings and such ... it takes an awful lot of time checking the spelling of every other word. I followed the exchange with you and others even though I didn’t participate actively, I had my hands full just absorbing the extensive mails ... you must have been working long hours to respond to all of the mails ... or maybe you are very connected to the lord above and the divine wisdom just FLOWS through you ... hehe ...
PETER: When I reply to someone on the mailing list I always assume I am writing not only to one person but to all on the list – after all, sharing of experiences, discoveries and information is the point of enquiring mailing lists. Mere Guru-bashing is a waste of time and is most usually undertaken by cynical spiritualites or real-world cynics.
My motivation in writing is peace on earth and my main point on this list was to point out that it was not even on the spiritual agenda. So, I do take care in writing and attempt not only to point out what doesn’t work and why, but also to clearly offer a method of discovering an actual down-to-earth freedom rather than the synthetic ‘other’-worldly spiritual freedom that has been the only thing on offer to date.
RESPONDENT: Here’s something for you to sink your teeth in ...
PETER: Objections to becoming happy and harmless are par for the course, and beliefs and psittacisms are grist for the mill, for an actualist. If you had visited the Actual Freedom web-site you might have noticed that hundreds of correspondents have written to us, all loudly proclaiming the old way of doing things is best and that the spiritual teachers and the sacred teachings should not and cannot be questioned. It reminds me of that spiritual story of the woman looking outside her hut where there is more light for a needle she has dropped inside in the dark. The current situation is that everyone is looking for peace on earth were billions of people have looked for millennia and a handful of actualists say it’s not over there with the old beliefs or else it would have been found by now. We are saying it is right here but everyone is afraid to leave the crowd of humanity stumbling around in the dark, and mainly for fear of leaving the spiritual crowd. (...)
RESPONDENT: I’m sure that many people would be extremely thrilled to hear about your view, than they would get even more confirmation of the fact that we’re just human animals of flesh and blood and not really responsible for our actions. It’s all chemicals rushing around in the body, we just can’t help but acting upon our instincts.
PETER: Are you kidding? No one takes responsibility for their actions anyway and how can they? Have you never experienced being overcome by anger or a jealous rage? Have you never experienced being overcome by sexual lust or swamped by feelings of deep sorrow? Have you never been overcome by fear or felt yourself sinking into a black pit of depression? Have you never felt grief such that it racks your body with pain? These are not experiences human beings can avoid while remaining bound to instinctual animal passions and it is these passions that make the human condition primarily one of malice and sorrow. The only way to become free of this ‘self’-imposed burden is ‘self’-immolation. The noble but ultimately failed idea that we can somehow cling to the tender, good instinctual passions while suppressing or transcending the savage, evil ones has clearly had its day.
It’s time for those who are vitally concerned about peace on earth to take responsibility and stop being contributors to malice and sorrow or becoming an escapist by burying their head in the clouds. But the fact that there is a third alternative is something that no one wants to really hear for to do so, even for a brief flash, would mean that they knew they were settling for second-best by pursuing the spiritual path to a synthetic freedom. (...)
PETER: The ages-old failure of this withdrawing is that one then becomes even further isolated from one’s fellow human being, even further removed from the sensual delights of the actual sensational physical world and one deliberately turns one’s back on the chance of tackling the task of eliminating the instinctual passions that are the cause of human malice and sorrow. The chance of an actual peace on earth, in this lifetime, as a flesh and blood body only is forfeited for an utterly selfish personal feeling of peace and the fantasy of an ultimate state of peace – after physical death.
RESPONDENT: I honestly can’t see what you are aiming at in pursuing the question of peace on earth. I personally think that it is on the agenda of many spiritual traditions. Even if it’s not being expressed like; ‘Yes, peace on earth is our goal’.
PETER: Are you saying, it’s a ‘secret message’ that’s hidden between the words of all the spiritual texts which say that peace is an inner peace or that peace is only possible only after physical death? Is it another of those things that cannot be spoken or cannot be put into words? Why would the spiritual teachings not explicitly state that their message is peace on earth in this life time and that they have the solution to ending human malice and sorrow on earth?
Real people are killing each other, real people are suffering to the point of killing themselves and you are telling me you ‘think’ it is on the agenda of many spiritual traditions. I went looking into four spiritual teachings in vain when the moderator of the mailing list glibly tried that one on and I haven’t heard from him since; and now you also think it is on the spiritual agenda but it might not be written in plain understandable words. This gooblygook makes any conversation about peace on earth meaningless. Do you blindly trust that it is on the agenda even though it is not put in words or spoken of – in fact when quite the opposite is written?
RESPONDENT: Andrew Cohen has always stressed that the search for liberation is not for our own sake but for the sake of mankind.
PETER: Yes, he stresses the ending of a personal self – as in ego-death – in order to realize an impersonal self – as in Enlightenment. This act of surrender to a higher power or Greater Good then leaves the newly liberated being indebted to this higher power and driven to be yet another Saviour of mankind and to spread the message of the Greater Good, Love, Truth, God, or whatever other name is used. It’s the same old message that has seduced humanity for millennia despite the valiant efforts of many to break free from these passionate fairy tales of good spirits vs. evil spirits and Gods vs. Devils. (...)
RESPONDENT: In my view it’s absolutely clear that Andrew includes peace on earth as a very important goal, the most important goal actually! He usually calls it ‘heaven on earth’ though but I assume there being no wars on this planet in that heavenly existence. The thing is that Andrew and others go much further than ending all wars (if that is what you mean by peace on earth), if we had paradise on earth I would expect that not only did we end all wars but we made possible a new and radically different way of relating to each other so that we could eventually end even most of our minor conflicts etc. The power of LOVE is strong as you know, Peter ... ...
PETER: Given your present line of thinking I would assume that you see Andrew Cohen’s spiritual communities as manifestations of this promised ‘heaven on earth’ and a living expression of the power of LOVE. If this is the case he is succeeding where no other Guru has managed to succeed and he then would truly demonstrate that his is the Only Way and he is the True and Pure messenger. Sort of reeks of ‘My God is the only True and Right God’ to me.
By assuming ‘there being no wars on this planet in that heavenly existence’ I would take it that all the other religions and religious beliefs would have to magically disappear from the face of earth for this to happen. That’s 1600 religions that would have to disappear not to mention all the current crop of NDA awakened ones would all have to agree that Cohenism is the only true and right teaching. Methinks that if you truly believe this is the answer to peace on earth you had better join up and begin converting others from their beliefs.
MODERATOR: I’m writing today to let you know that we’ve decided to make a slight readjustment in the focus of this forum. Our initial aim in hosting this list was to create a forum for readers of our magazine to discuss the various articles and issues raised in the magazine. Although initially the discussion was centred around our issue on gender and enlightenment, gradually it has moved away from a focus on the magazine – a movement which, while perhaps no less interesting, has ultimately taken us away from our original objective of creating a complement to the magazine.
So, with the release of our latest issue, ‘What Is Ego? friend or foe . . .’, we have decided to aim the list back at its original target and see how it goes. Practically, what that means is that we’d like to encourage everyone to have a look at the new issue, and share your responses with other readers here on the list. Discussion of back issues is also welcome, the contents of which can be found at <snip>.
And from now on, postings that do not pertain directly to the content of the magazine won’t be posted.
Obviously, there will be some judgment calls. Let’s find out together.
PETER: I assume this post is directed to me. Fair enough. I realize I was pushing the envelope to dare to try and talk about how to actualize peace on earth on a spiritual mailing list. Your ruling does add substance to my point that peace on earth is not on the spiritual agenda, a bit less interesting than the main event. I have yet to see it mentioned in any spiritual teaching for all religious belief is concerned either with ‘the peace that passeth all understanding’, ‘inner’ peace or ‘Resting In Peace’, after death.
MODERATOR: On another note, I also wanted to (delicately) try to encourage a spirit of brevity in the postings. Let me know if I’m alone in the perception that long-winded waxing, however eloquently delivered, often serves the writer more than the reader. Thanks again for all of your heartfelt participation. Looking forward to a new era of dialogue...
PETER: Very delicately put. To call a spade a spade, as I like to do, I see that you are saying my posts are spoiling your game, that I am being non-spiritually egotistical, a real pain in the bum and you hope I will go away. Sort of a polite pre-sentence comment prior to cyber-execution?
To avoid vagueness do you have a number-of-words limit per post? It seems a fairer way of avoiding arbitrary judgements based on prejudice.
There are some more posts on the subject of peace on earth that have been sent to me and I will send my responses to you. If the decreed deadline for not talking about peace on earth is ABSOLUTE perhaps you could forward them privately to the individuals concerned to avoid offending any recalcitrant egos or contumacious souls.
PETER: I realize I was pushing the envelope to dare to try and talk about how to actualize peace on earth on a spiritual mailing list. Your ruling does add substance to my point that peace on earth is not on the spiritual agenda, a bit ‘less interesting’ than the main event. I have yet to see it mentioned in any spiritual teaching for all religious belief is concerned either with ‘the peace that passeth all understanding’, ‘inner’ peace or ‘Resting In Peace’, after death.
MODERATOR: Keep reading. It’s definitely out there. See Mahayana Buddhism, Sufism, the writings of Swami Vivekananda, and more recently, the works of my own teacher, Andrew Cohen, which speak extensively about this subject. Visit www.andrewcohen.org for more info.
PETER: If you want to make a point of substance and worth, it is of no use to wave your arms and say it’s somewhere ‘out there’. Please provide some evidence to substantiate your claims for saying one thing while doing another – stifling a discussion about peace on earth – does somewhat weaken your stance. However, looking briefly in the directions you indicated I find –
Buddhism’s central tenet is that
Peace in the Buddhist world of fundamental disappointment and suffering is maintained either by keeping one’s inner cool, remaining focused within and being morally and ethically ‘right’ or, for the serious practitioners, finding an sheltered peace by retreating to isolated monasteries or spiritual communities of like-minded people. Nowhere do I find in Buddhist teachings any mention of peace on earth, in this lifetime, as this flesh and blood body only.
PETER: As for Sufism, again one needs to go back to the fundamental principles of the teachings otherwise fashionable fuzziness and spiritual slipperiness can easily fog the investigation –
Constant struggle against the lower soul, the ‘black dog’, indicates the ancient idea of evil and darkness as the cause of human malice and sorrow and in no way acknowledges the modern understanding of genetically-encoded instinctual animal passions in humans. The path of constant struggle, repentance, abstinence, renunciation, poverty, patience, gratitude and acceptance of one’s lot in life clearly leads to God and nowhere do I find any mention in Sufism of peace on earth, in this lifetime, as this flesh and blood body only.
PETER: As for the teachings of Swami Vivekananda –
In Eastern religion to become great means to become a God-man and the measure of greatness and power is measured by the number of other people he manages to convince of his Godliness. If successful, yet another religion or religious faction is born to add to the plethora of insular and competing religions already on the planet.
This is the superficial argument at the centre of Vedanta – the only reason we feel malicious and sorrowful is that we have yet to realize that we are God. Once we realize we are God, then the bad feelings disappear in a puff of smoke and everything will feel okay. This puerile belief does nothing to address or change the underlying root cause of human malice and sorrow.
In Vedanta it is not selfish to believe you are God-on-earth, ‘because you are all’. As long as you feel and show compassion for those who have not yet realized they are God then one’s exalted position is justified. The Vedanta system did very well in India where thousands would queue for hours to kiss feet the of Ramana Maharshi and worship him as God, but this adoration is usually toned down in the West to a humble form of boot-licking rather than the more traditional feet kissing.
This great ideal and faith has failed lamentably to bring anything even remotely resembling peace on earth. It is founded on the fundamental principle that earthly suffering is essential in order to undertake the great search for God-realization – if human beings didn’t fight and suffer then we would have no need for the belief in God or the need to feel we are God. Nowadays we can nip this nonsense in the bud for we now know the root cause of human suffering and go for the jugular rather than wallow in denial and God-inspired fantasies.
Life and peace after death is clearly indicated as is the continuation of his greatness after death – the longed-for immortality of each God-man’s message that inevitably forms warring and competing religions.
PETER: As for the teachings of Andrew Cohen, I ran the search engine through all the writings on his web site and found only four references to peace in all of the writings –
He is clearly talking of a feeling of ‘inner’ peace ... a peace ‘inside our own self ’
Again, he talks of an ‘inner’ peace such as is ‘found in the experience of deep meditation.’ and not in the world as-it-is with people as-they-are.
The place that spiritual practice leads fundamentally ‘is a place where nothing ever happened, a place before the universe was born’ as is evident from the first quotation. By residing in this ‘place ’ the spiritual person is then able to cope with all the trials and tribulations, misery and suffering and fundamental contradictions of life in the ‘real’ world by staying isolated in the place of ‘perfect peace that lies deep within us.’
The following quotation does not mention peace but it well illustrates the traditional religious approach to at least feeling peaceful – the best on offer, up to now.
The ages-old failure of this withdrawing is that one then becomes even further isolated from one’s fellow human being, even further removed from the sensual delights of the actual sensational physical world and one deliberately turns one’s back on the chance of tackling the task of eliminating the instinctual passions that are the cause of human malice and sorrow. The chance of an actual peace on earth, in this lifetime, as a flesh and blood body only is forfeited for an utterly selfish personal feeling of peace and the fantasy of an ultimate state of peace – after physical death.
Most spiritual people are very happy to question and scrutinize other spiritual teachings and teachers but soon feel mightily offended and attacked when their own beliefs and teacher are questioned and scrutinized. Because of this I have attempted to steer clear of quoting particular teachings and teachers but you did make unsubstantiated claims in your rebuttal of my comment that ‘peace on earth is not on the spiritual agenda’.
PETER: As for ‘cynical disillusioned’, I have had this charge levelled at me countless times. Below is a typical exchange from the Sannyas mailing list before I was cyber-executed from the list for being too heretical and iconoclastic ... <Snip>
PUBLISHER No 1: Look Peter I’m not sure about the stuff you wrote. It all seems pretty right to me except that I see it’s not His responsibility to create this, for me a ‘new man’ of some sort has emerged in me but he didn’t do it, I did. I never saw any of these things as promises, maybe they are, maybe they’re not, but for me they were statements of possibilities. This is possible, but I never thought for one second that he or Sannyas would create this – I realized I had to do anything that needed doing or stop doing things that don’t need doing.
Look, people who want to debate I’m right your wrong or any number of variations on this don’t interest me. I don’t think Sannyas can save the world, or even make a good cup of tea for that matter, but I can and you can if you want to.
PETER: That’s a pretty clear statement. You never thought for one second that the New Man was going to happen and you never thought for one second that peace on earth would ever happen. And you don’t want to talk about or debate about peace on earth. It keeps up the 100% record of Sannyasins who are either in denial or don’t care.
What I find fascinating is a movement that was supposedly altruistic and caring has degenerated into a self-centred social club totally lacking in any direction or motive apart from self-fulfillment – both as a group and as individuals. No wonder peace on earth forever remains an unfulfilled dream. Peace on earth is literally sacrificed at the altar of dead God-men.
PUBLISHER No 2: I am left wondering why you are so concerned about the image of Sannyasins.
PETER: At one time I had many friends who were Sannyasins, as I was, and most were very sincere and totally dedicated in their search for freedom, peace and happiness. As I have said before, at the time Sannyas was the best game to play. I now see a watering down of this search amongst many Sannyasins to the point were many are ‘happy and content’ exactly as they are, with no desire for change. I think this is evidenced by the fact that many are attracted by the teachings that ‘you are already That – all you have to do is realize It’.
To me this is a sorry and lamentable demise of a movement that began in the fervour of 60’s and that was going to change the world and bring peace to this fair planet. This passionate search for freedom, peace and happiness has degenerated into an utterly self-centred fashionable New Dark Age spiritualism that cares not a fig about peace on earth. The current image of Sannyasins in the wider community is that they at the forefront of this self-centredness and are deliberately turning away from the original spirit that was around in the ‘early days’.
Perhaps this just makes me an old fogie but I, for one, still remain vitally interested in actual peace on earth.
A bit I wrote for the Introduction to Actual Freedom may be relevant –
Sannyas has become yet another ‘old time religion’ and peace on earth is sacrificed yet again. As you can see, I am more concerned about the content and consequences of the Sannyas message than the image of Sannyasins. That’s why I write – purely and simply to say to anyone who is discontent with the spiritual path that there is a now a third alternative available to remaining ‘normal’ or becoming ‘spiritual.
The reason I wrote to you guys was to warn you of the apparent perception of intolerance towards other religions in your magazine. But you don’t seem to see what I see, so I see no point in continuing to flog a dead horse.
Peter’s Text ©The Actual Freedom Trust: 1997-. All Rights Reserved.