When I first encountered this book on the Waldenbooks new age shelf, I thought that Vedanta was a person, as in "the Gospel according to Matthew," etcWhen I first encountered this book on the Waldenbooks new age shelf, I thought that Vedanta was a person, as in "the Gospel according to Matthew," etc. (This was in 1989 or 1990, when I was high school senior in Decatur, IL; I discovered this book at the same time as the Bhagavad Gita, which at the time was mainly noteworthy because it rhymed with "pita," itself another "foreign" item intruding on my culturally impoverished youth. Sad but true.)
In the subsequent two-plus decades, I spent a lot of time and energy attempting to answer my dad's perennial question, "What do you believe?" I knew I didn't accept my family's fundamentalist Lutheran take on Christianity (and hadn't since the fateful day I brought home that book on human evolution from the public library, only to be told that science was a lie when it contradicted stories in the Bible). I also knew that atheism, at least as I understood and experienced it, was not for me—it seemed too easy an out for me to say, "Oh to hell with the Jesus thing." And so in college I studied science (specifically biology and anthropology) alongside religion, trying to figure it all out. Then I got a Master's degree studying Buddhism and contemplative aspects of other religious traditions, including the Christianity in which I had been reared. I gradually arrived at a (loosely held) worldview in which I affirmed the relevance of Jesus to my own life, just not on terms my parents would, or do, understand. That worldview is one in which Jesus is a yidam, Tibetan for "tutelary deity," a concept akin to the Hindu notion of the iṣṭa-devatā.
So what does all of this rambling have to do with the book in question? Well, after having this book on my shelf for twenty years, and finally getting around to reading it, I found that my current worldview was more or less spelled out in these 126 pages. Perhaps I need not have taken the trip I took if only I had read it way back when, but then, of course, if I had read it 20 years ago, I wouldn't have gotten as much out of it (if anything at all). The decades of searching and pondering were, and are, my path. ...more
After the series improved a bit with the third installment, I had hopes for subsequent books, but after slogging through this I am turning my back onAfter the series improved a bit with the third installment, I had hopes for subsequent books, but after slogging through this I am turning my back on Piers Anthony and the rest of his "Incarnations of Immortality" series. Anthony is a prolific and best-selling author, but I just don't like his style. The characterizations are thin and too often stereotypical, the dialogue is usually stilted and unnatural, and the "philosophy" behind the Incarnations isn't all that thought-provoking (in part, I suspect, because Anthony didn't put a whole lot of research into his world-building).
Here are some questions that irked me as I read: - How could there possibly be "oriental" religions and myths in a world controlled by the literal incarnations of "occidental" ideas like God and Satan?
- If "Mym" (who doesn't have a real Indian name like Bharat or Prasanta) became the Incarnation of War, why did he, as a Hindu, go by "Mars" and not "Indra"?
- Why does he make the "occidental" mistake of equating Shiva the destroyer with Satan the deceiver?
As a teenager who didn't know better himself, this book would probably have seemed completely awesome, but as an adult, I expect better and I no longer have the time to waste waiting for "Incarnations" to deliver. ...more
José recommended this book for me back in 1998 or '99, when we were browsing through the titles in the Gregory Village Shopping Center Goodwill in PleJosé recommended this book for me back in 1998 or '99, when we were browsing through the titles in the Gregory Village Shopping Center Goodwill in Pleasant Hill, CA. He also recommended The Gulag Archipelago, which I didn't take up and read until almost ten years later. I don't remember what I purchased (though I think it was a tattered Black Skin, White Masks by Frantz Fanon) but I know it wasn't either of his recommendations.
José's recommendations count though, and so this book was always on my radar. I finally found a trade paperback copy in the late 2000's, which promptly vanished into my fiction stacks, until I read an Archdruid Report post entitled "The Glass Bead Game," at which point I moved the book to the "to read" pile.
So what is it about? I was afraid you would ask that, because it really isn't about much. It is literary fiction, the novel for which Hesse won his Nobel Prize. It is science fiction, in the sense of describing a far future society on a far future Earth, if not in the sense of cowboys-in-space operas, alien invasions, or gritty corporate cyberstuff. It is a hagiography of one Joseph Knecht, Magister Ludi, written, or more correctly, edited, by an anonymous disciple. ...more
**spoiler alert** I read this book at the prompting of a friend from a church I frequent. He is an emeritus professor of biology who recommended this**spoiler alert** I read this book at the prompting of a friend from a church I frequent. He is an emeritus professor of biology who recommended this book to me by way of answering my question about how he reconciles science, specifically neo-Darwinian evolution, with his liberal Anabaptist Christian theology. I'm not sure I'm satisfied with that answer.
Anyhow, here is the spoiler, all Lanza's "Principle of Biocentrism" spelled out as on pp. 159-60: (view spoiler)[
First Principle of Biocenrism: What we perceive as reality is a process that involves our consciousness. An "external" reality, if it existed, would—by definition—have to exist in space. But this is meaningless, because space and time are not absolute realities but rather tools of the human and animal mind.
Second Principle of Biocentrism: Our external and internal perceptions are inextricably intertwined. They are different sides of the same coin and cannot be divorced from one another.
Third Principle of Biocentrism: The behavior of subatomics particles—indeed all particles and objects—are inextricably linked to the presence of an observer. Without the presence of a conscious observer, they at best exist in an undetermined state of probability waves.
Fourth Principle of Biocentrism: Without consciousness, "matter" dwells in a undetermined state of probability. Any universe that could have preceded consciousness only existed in a probability state.
Fifth Principle of Biocentrism: The structure of the universe is explainable only through biocentrism. The universe is fine-tuned for life, which makes perfect sense as life creates the universe, not the other way around. The "universe" is simply the complete spatio-temporal logic of the self.
Sixth Principle of Biocentrism: Time does not have a real existence outside of animal-sense perception. It is the process by which we perceived changes in the universe.
Seventh Principle of Biocentrism: Space, like time, is not an object or a thing. Space is another form of our animal understanding and does not have an independent reality. We carry space and time around with us like turtles with shells. Thus, there is no absolute self-existing matrix in which physical events occur independent of life.
No surprise, the reception to this book by the scientific community has been mixed, because its major premise challenges "common sense," the basic presumption, scientific or otherwise, that the world "out there" is real. While I wouldn't go so far as to call the book's thesis "baloney" as has another reviewer (mainly because I am agnostic about the nature of reality and the ability of talking monkeys to encapsulate it, either in ink squiggles on a page or through small mouth noises) I would definitely agree that this book fails to make a persuasive case for a thesis that is, to put it mildly, counterintuitive.
Additionally, I have to wonder if the author really set out to write his memoirs rather than a philosophical treatise, because at least 20% of the material in the book consists of details from the author's life that have little, if any, bearing on his thesis. I now know that Lanza's dad was a gambler, that his sister became a mentally ill drug addict, that Lanza had many brushes with greatness as a young man (he even makes a comment about the value of name-dropping!), what his 10-acre island property looks like, and that many media outlets regard him as a "genius."
[N]othing can be perceived that is not already interacting with our consciousness, which is why biocentric axiom number one is that nature or the so-called external world must be correlative with consciousness. One doesn't exist without the other. What this means is that when we do not look at the Moon the Moon effectively vanishes—which, subjectively, is obvious enough. If we still think of the Moon and believe that it's out there orbiting the Earth, or accept that other people are probably watching it, all such thoughts are mental constructs. The bottom-line issue here is if no consciousness existed at all, in what sense would the Moon persist, and in what form? (p. 35)
When we observe the words printed in a book, its paper seemingly a foot away, is not being perceived—the image, the paper, is the perception—and as such, it is contained in the logic of this neurocircuitry. A correlative reality encompasses everything, with only language providing separation between external and internal, between there and here. Is this matrix of neurons and atoms fashioned in an energy field of Mind? (p. 149)
Lanza's actual thesis of "biocentrism" isn't actually all that novel. It is a re-packaging of Advaita Vedanta and Mahayana Buddhist understandings of Mind and Reality (as Lanza notes several times). It is a rehashing of the same "quantum mysticism" that is popular with the New Age, paradigm-shifting crowds (it is good to remember that there are multiple interpretations of quantum "weirdness" and thus that Lanza's isn't the only one). It draws on similar insights as Robert Anton Wilson's, and others', about how the mind is inextricably bound up with the world-as-perceived. For example, neuroscience agrees that the screen I see as I type these words is not something "out there" that is being perceived by me "in here," but that instead my perception of the screen consists of my brain organizing various energetic signals coming in through my senses and structuring them in such a way as to "create" the visual field/sensorium that I perceive as "out there." Meanwhile, the fly on the monitor receives different signals and interprets them as a gigantic wall upon which to stand, and so on.
It is a truism to say that reality as we know it is only possible through our mechanisms of knowing, and so I have no problem agreeing that any of our experiences are only experienced because we are alive and aware to experience them. Any comment we can make about the "external" world is necessarily about our perceptions of that world, rather than the world-as-it-is. Questions about the absolute nature of a world separate from human consciousness of that world cannot be answered in any meaningful way, and as far as we know, because it is the only way we can know, "reality" arises as correlated subject and object, whatever that means. I can buy that, and it ain't news to the philosophical traditions of India and China, as well as to many Western philosophers. (In case you can't tell, I am a little irked at Lanza and his publicist for the grandiosity with which his "revolutionary ideas" are presented.) But it is one thing to note that there is an inextricable correlation in our lived experience between "inside" and "outside," and quite another to assert that this proves that there is in fact no world "out there" independent of the perceptions of minded, living beings. It proves instead that, by definition, we do not and cannot know what, if anything, the universe is like without minds to perceive it, and reminds at least this reader that some questions don't lend themselves to answers.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Lots of great material in this series of lectures, although most is about the study of religion in general and less about the specific discipline of cLots of great material in this series of lectures, although most is about the study of religion in general and less about the specific discipline of comparative religion. ...more
Brown's opening paragraph sums up the contemporary metapredicament nicely:
The future has never looked brighter or more bleak. Never before in human hi
Brown's opening paragraph sums up the contemporary metapredicament nicely:
The future has never looked brighter or more bleak. Never before in human history has there been so much cause for both hope and alarm. We are living in a world of increasing uncertainty, and each day brings new reasons for both celebration and concern. Are we headed toward a glistening new world of technological marvels and wonders or own extinction?
Unfortunately, Brown doesn't have quite the interviewing chops necessary to rise the bar he sets with this introduction and the title. Which is not to say that this isn't an interesting read. It was interesting, enraging, thought-provoking, challenging, and even funny. That Brown managed to score interviews with many of these luminaries—including Noam Chomsky, George Carlin, Robert Anton Wilson, Douglas Rushkoff, Clifford Pickover, Bruce Sterling, Ray Kurzweil, Alex Grey, and Kary Mullis—is impressive in itself, and he is a brave/stupid enough interviewer to ask questions about psychedelics and alien abduction to Chomsky. He asks similar (and sometimes exactly the same) questions to different interviewees and usually in the same order. This allows the reader to compare the different worldviews articulated by the interviewees, I guess, but by the end of the book it was coming across as canned and tedious technique. Luckily, the range of personalities encountered and ideas explored was vast, with lots of intelligence and clarity of thought, but little overarching agreement, about topics as diverse as our contemporary media ecology, ecological collapse, artificial intelligence, advanced robotics, the Singularity, psychedelics, alien abductions, spiritual transformation, and the existence of God. ...more
"Considered together, Bohm and Pribram's theories provide a profound new way of looking at the world: Our brains mathematically construct objective re"Considered together, Bohm and Pribram's theories provide a profound new way of looking at the world: Our brains mathematically construct objective reality by interpreting frequencies that are ultimately projections from another dimension, a deeper order of existence that is beyond both space and time: The brain is a hologram enfolded in a holographic universe." (p. 54)
As you may imagine, I was fascinated with this book when I began reading it in 1994 at the suggestion of a respected friend. At about the sixth chapter--right where the author started discussing auras, astral bodies, and chakras--I hit a snag, and put the book down with the intention of finishing it "soon." Sixteen years later and tens of thousands of other pages later, and I again got bogged down in the exact same section (at this point I guess I felt like the book was attempting to shoehorn every single new age trope into the author's new "paradigm.") This time, though, I persevered through what I considered two-star material, and got to the final chapter which unveils Talbot's image of a holographic universe where the part and the whole comprise one another, where everything literally "inter-is" everything else. On the whole, a fascinating--if nowhere near convincing--speculation on the nature of reality and a theoretical framework for what Greg Egan has elsewhere decried as "quantum mysticism" and what I consider really awesome if we could provide substantial evidence for it.
"Indeed, the holographic model itself is highly controversial and is by no means accepted by a majority of scientists. Nonetheless, and as we shall see, many important and impressive thinkers do support it and believe it may be the most accurate picture of reality we have to date." (p. 3)
"We are indeed on a shaman's journey, mere children struggling to become technicians of the sacred. We are learning how to deal with the plasticity that is part and parcel of a universe in which mind and reality are a continuum, and in this journey one lesson stands out from above all others. As long as the formlessness and breathtaking freedom of the beyond remain frightening to us, we will continue to dream for ourselves that is comfortably solid and well defined." (p. 302)...more
It's not exactly an intuitive combination like peanut butter and chocolate: Hindu iconography and the visual style of Hello Kitty. And yet it succeedsIt's not exactly an intuitive combination like peanut butter and chocolate: Hindu iconography and the visual style of Hello Kitty. And yet it succeeds as a cute and thoughtful introduction to a handful of Hinduism's 300,000,000 major and minor divinities. The doe-eyed artwork gets a little monotonous at times, but I could easily imagine it being an endless source of fascination for my eight-year-old. As well, the explanatory text that accompanies each image is just the right length as an introduction. This would make an excellent book for interfaith libraries--especially for kids--and a fun resource for instructors of intro religious studies courses. ...more
The text presents a translation of traditional accounts of the lives of the 84 mahasiddhas, Indian spiritual masters of the first millennium CE whoseThe text presents a translation of traditional accounts of the lives of the 84 mahasiddhas, Indian spiritual masters of the first millennium CE whose "spiritual accomplishments" (siddhis) transcended Hindu-Buddhist sectarianism. There are themes (e.g., an incident that provokes the siddha-to-be to follow the path to spiritual transformation, the length of time of practice, etc.) that pervade the stories, and the translator has helpfully included a table of these themes at the end of the book, allowing the reader easily to gain an overview. This doesn't make the most exciting reading, but then again, it was never meant to be exciting reading. Instead, these stories present eighty four models for spiritual transformation whose protagonists cut across all grains, including rich and poor, noble and outcast, and provide insight into the matrix of early Hindu and Buddhist tantra. ...more
I've always found Huston Smith insightful, lucid, and fun to read, and so I chose this as one of my course textbooks (when the previous textbook cameI've always found Huston Smith insightful, lucid, and fun to read, and so I chose this as one of my course textbooks (when the previous textbook came out in a new edition---for $110!). In spite of its lack of much primary source material (which Philip Novak's collection of scriptures supplements), this is an excellent introduction to the major religions of the world, "our wisdom traditions." Smith's concise chapters describe the big religions--Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism, Judaism, Islam, and Christianity--as well as discussing the role of religion in the 21st century and providing tips on how to approach religions and religious diversity. The illustrations are the weakest part of the book. Some are excellent, others (like the image of Mahavira in the chapter on Buddhism) are out of place, and the heavy reliance on the paintings of Marc Chagall didn't make much sense when the religions of the world afford so much imagery. ...more
Time and again in history, multiple religions have existed within one another's spheres of influence, and consequently each tradition has generated muTime and again in history, multiple religions have existed within one another's spheres of influence, and consequently each tradition has generated multiple responses to these social realities of religious plurality. Scholar of Indian philosophy Coward herein recounts many of these responses on the part of two "Dharmic" traditions (Hinduism and Buddhism) and four Abrahamic religions—the Big Three of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, and, interestingly (but not surprisingly, given the nature of the publisher), the Baha'i faith. The author highlights their successes and limitations alike. The conclusion sketches out what we may generally learn from and profit by in looking at the historical responses to religious pluralism on the part of these many faiths, and also suggests future directions for interfaith dialogue and relations.
Our study of how each religion has responded and is responding to the challenge of religious pluralism has identified three general themes and common principles: 1) that religious pluralism can best be understood in terms of a logic that sees the One manifesting as the many—transcendent reality phenomenalizing as the various religions; 2) that there is a common recognition of the instrumental quality of particular religious experience [i.e., religious experience is an "instrument" or means of effecting particular changes in the life of the experiencer]; and 3) that spirituality is identified and validated by the superimposing of one's own criterion upon other religions. (140)
As a first step, then, let us attempt to indicate some of the presuppositions upon which the religious dialogue of the future should be grounded. These presuppositions will be drawn inductively from our prior analysis of the present situation in religious pluralism. The seven key presuppositions are these: 1) that in all religions there is experience of a reality that transcends human conception; 2) that that reality is conceived in a plurality of ways both within each religion and among all religions and that the recognition of plurality is necessary both to safeguard religious freedom and to respect human limitations; 3) that the pluralistic forms of religion are instrumental in function; 4) that what is absolute and decisive in any religion is one's commitment to truth, yet one's grasp of truth is and remains limited; 5) that the Buddha's teaching of critical tolerance and moral compassion always must be observed; 6) that through self-critical dialogue we must penetrate ever further into our own particular experience of transcendent reality (and possibly into the transcendent reality of others); and 7) that within the plurality of our interfaith encounter a focus on "the suffering other" and "the suffering earth" can provide a shared starting point for a dialogue toward mutual cooperation and understanding. (153)
A basic prerequisite for future dialogue is that all participants have accurate information about each other's religion. Fulfilling this prerequisite is probably the single largest obstacle to the success of religious dialogue. The majority of people today are illiterate in their own religion as well as the religions of others. The academic discipline of religious studies has a a major role to play in overcoming this problem. Intellectual knowledge of the facts of all religions is needed—but alone that will not be sufficient. We will not be able to empathize with the sense of transcendent reality that the forms of religion seek to convey if only surface or intellectual knowledge is achieved. True empathy and understanding require that we learn each other's languages, for therein lie the important nuances of transcendent experience that are often lost in translation. The educational prerequisite for future dialogue is a stiff and serious one, requiring dedication and effort from all who would partake of this dialogue. (156)
This is an excellent, clearly written, solidly four-star primer on the subject of religious pluralism, and the tentative conclusions at which Coward arrives merit further contemplation and reflection on the part of scholars and believer-practitioners alike. What makes it a five-star book, in my estimation, is the author's incorporation into his conclusions of the "two truths" approach to religious truth claims propounded by Mahayana Buddhist philosopher Nāgārjuna—that religious truth claims are self-contradictory when taken as absolute truths, as can be shown through reductio ad absurdum, but are often quite useful and powerful when regarded as provisional and instrumental. In graduate school, we called this approach, which after Nāgārjuna was called Prāsaṅgika Madhyamaka, the "Borg" of religious philosophy. But it doesn't assimilate different religions and philosophies so much as hoist them from their own petards, making everyone a little more humble and providing a good starting point for dialogue.
The tolerant but critical attitude of the Buddha towards the plurality of religious views is shaped into a rigorous philosophic approach by the Mādhyamika Buddhists. Like the Buddha, the Mādhyamika purpose in criticism is affirmative. The critical analysis of the beliefs of a religious view is not aimed at rejecting that religion or demonstrating its inferiority in relation to other religious views (including even other Buddhist views); rather the goal of Mādhyamika is the removal of ego-attachment to any religious philosophy or theology so that true spirituality can be experienced and lived....Philosophy, theology and scripture have useful roles to play as guides, as providing the contents for 'provisional faith'. But as soon as such viewpoints become attached to the ego and made absolute, they destroy the capacities for tolerance, objective criticism and compassionate action. The unending and often destructive history of philosophical/theological argument among religions and within particular religions is cited as evidence of the truth of the Buddha's insight. (133)
[The] universal human characteristic of ego-attachment to one's own position has been given much attention by Nāgārjuna and other Mādhyamika Buddhists. They approached the problem as follows. Because human beings are by nature ego-attached to their own view or theological position, no amount of arguing from an opposed position will have any effect. The theologians in question will simply reinterpret an objection or counter position in such a way as to fit their system. In other words, by the mechanism of projection they will attempt to force their opponents off certain presuppositions and on to theirs. And because the opponents will be attempting to do the same (all are ego-attached to their positions and cognitively cannot let go), an endless and unhelpful debate will ensue. With this psychological insight in hand, the model developed by the Mādhyamika Buddhists for theological debate was simple and devastating. The Mādhyamika entered the debate with no theological position. The aim was to understand the position of an opponent so completely that the Mādhyamika would be able to find the internal inconsistencies inevitably present in every theological system and then by reductio ad adsurdum argument bring the whole thing crashing down around the ears of the opponent. To be defeated by one's own system brings on a severe psychological shock—one that might even convince the theologian to give up theologizing permanently. And that, of course, was the very thing the Mādhyamika was hoping to accomplish. Once theologians put down their pens and let go of their favourite concepts, the way is cleared or emptied of intellectual obstacles so that they can finally see reality as a pure perception and live their lives appropriately. (150–1)
I still remember when José pulled this off his mythology shelf back in '95 and turned straight to the weird numerology section at the front of the booI still remember when José pulled this off his mythology shelf back in '95 and turned straight to the weird numerology section at the front of the book, where Campbell finds wonderful numerical correlations between the various systems of world mythology and the then-contemporary scientific understandings of the universe. At that point I knew I had to read this book, which meant that, true to form, I bought it almost immediately and promptly waited seventeen years to read it.
In this collection of reworked lectures, and his final book (I think), Campbell provides a fascinating take on the perennial philosophy and presents it as a means of bridging the divide between the languages and worldviews of religion and science. According to Campbell, the problem is that neither side understands the metaphorical aspects of mythical language and symbolism and so mistakenly take literally that which is intended to point to a lived experience of the sacred and not to express a fact about history, biology, etc.
Here are some of the things Campbell had to say that really blew me away:
One cannot predict the next mythology any more than one can predict tonight's dream; for a mythology is not an ideology. It is not something projected from the brain, but something experienced from the heart, from recognitions of identities behind or within the appearances of nature, perceiving with love a "thou" where there would have been otherwise only an "it." (p.17)
[A] true prophet ... knew the difference between his ethnic ideas and the elementary ideas that they enclose, between a metaphor and its connotation, between a tribal myth and its metaphysical import. For when the inner eye is awakened and a revelation arises from inner space to meet impressions brought by the senses from outer space to the mind, the significance of the conjunction is lost unless the outward image opens to receive and embody the elementary idea: this being the whole sense of the transformation of nature in art. Otherwise, nothing has happened; an external event has been merely documented and a cultic, ethnic centricity given as the last word of religion, with naturalism the end and beginning of art. (34)
The first step to mystical realization is the leaving of such a defined god for an experience of transcendence, disengaging the ethnic from the elementary idea, for any god who is not transparent to transcendence is an idol, and its worship is idolatry. Also, the first step to participation in the destiny of humankind today, which is neither of this folk not of that, but of the whole population of this globe, is to recognize every such local image of a god as but one of many thousands, millions, even perhaps billions, of locally useful symbolizations of that same mystery beyond sight or thought which our teachers have taught us to seek in their god alone. (44)
[M]ythic figurations are the "ancestral forms," the insubstantial archetypes, of all that is beheld by the eye as physically substantial, material things being understood as ephemeral concretions out of the energies of these noumena. Traditional forms of tools, dwellings, and weapons have their justification in such everlasting models. Rituals are direct expositions of their life-sustaining patterns. Temples and the narratives of myth are hermetic fields within which those apparitions known as gods and goddesses, demons, angels, demigods, incarnations, and the like, typify in the guise of charismatic personalities the locally recognized vortices of consciousness out of which all aspects of the local theatre of life derive their being. The figurations of myth are expressive, therefore, as those of dream normally are not, of range of universal, as distinguished from specifically individual, concerns. (56)
[E]ternity being by definition outside or beyond temporality, transcendent of all categories, whether of virtue or of reason (being and nonbeing, unity and multiplicity, love and justice, forgiveness and wrath), the term and concept "God" is itself but a metaphor of the unknowing mind, connatative, not only beyond itself, but beyond thought. So that all can be said of it, whether as touching time or eternity, has to be in the way of an "as if" (als ob): philosophically and theologically ... through the analogy of a rationally inferred First Cause, and mythologically ... in the way of a psychologically affective image transparent to transcendence. (57)
One cannot but ask: What can ... tribal literalism possibly contribute but agony to such a world of intercultural, global prospects as that of our present century? It call comes of misreading metaphors, taking denotation for connotation, the messenger for the message; overloading the carrier, consequently, with sentimentalized significance and throwing both life and thought thereby off balance. To which the only generally recognized correction as yet proposed has been the no less wrongheaded one of dismissing the metaphors as lies (which indeed they are, when so construed), thus scrapping the whole dictionary of the language of the soul (this is a metaphor) by which mankind has been elevated to interests beyond procreation, economics, and "the greatest good of the greatest number." (58)
There is a Hindu tantric saying, nāvedo devam arcayet, "by none but a god shall a god be worshipped". The deity of one's worship is a function of one's own state of mind. But it also is a product of one's culture. Catholic nuns do not have visions of the Buddha, nor do Buddhist nuns have visions of Christ. Ineluctably, the image of any God beheld ... will be of a local ethnic idea historically conditioned, a metaphor, therefore, and thus to be recognized as transparent to transcendence. Remaining fixed to its name and form, whether with simple faith or in saintly vision, is therefore to remain in mind historically bounded and attached to an appearance. (67)
The first task of any systematic comparison of the myths and religions of mankind should therefore be ... to identify [the] universals (or, as C.G. Jung termed them, archetypes of the unconscious) and as far as possible to interpret them; and the second task then should be to recognize and interpret the various locally and historically conditions transformations of the metaphorical images through which these universals have been rendered. (99)
The universally distinguishing characteristic of mythological thought and communication is an implicit connotation through all its metaphorical imagery of a sense of identity of some kind, transcendent of appearances, which unites behind the scenes the opposed actors on the world stage. (110)
The metaphors of any mythology may be defined as affect signs derived from intuitions of just this play of the Self through all the forms of a local manner of life, made manifest through ritualized representations, pedagogical narratives, prayers, meditations, annual festivals, and the like, in such a way that all members of the relevant community may be held, both in mind and in sentiment, to its knowledge and thus moved to live in accord. (113)
[I]t is the function of the priest to represent the claims of life in the world, ethics against metaphysics, the art of living in the knowledge of transcendence without dissolving into it in a rapture of self-indulgence.... Like the priest, the artist is a master of metaphorical language. The priest, however, is vocationally committed to a vocabulary already coined, of which he is the representative. He is a performing artist executing scripts already perfectly wrought, and his art is in the execution. (121)
In my sojourns through the religion, philosophy, and New Age sections of various bookshops, I've repeatedly come across the name and face of Adi Da (pIn my sojourns through the religion, philosophy, and New Age sections of various bookshops, I've repeatedly come across the name and face of Adi Da (previously known as Bubba Free John, among other monikers). It was only when I found this pocket-sized introductory book, though, that I decided to read a bit more about this enigmatic and controversial guru and his teachings. Having devoured the entire thing last night, I'm still trying to figure out whether or not Adi Da means for us to take everything written here seriously. My assumption is that this booklet is an accurate, if brief, look at Adidam, because it is published by the Dawn Horse Press (the publisher of all of Adi Da's other works) and was written under the direction of the Ruchira Sannyasin Order of Adidam Ruchiradam (a impressive-sounding group about which the reader is told nothing). If this is the case, then Adi Da is either: (1) God incarnate, (2) a legitimate spiritual teacher with delusions of grandeur, (3) seriously mentally ill, (4) a charlatan of epic proportions, or (5) some combination thereof. For the record, my money is not on option #1.
Adi Da is, according to this book, "Real God, or Truth, or Reality, Manifesting in human form" (p.6). He claims that at his birth as Franklin Jones (in Jamaica, NY, no less), the Divine Reality became a human being for the first time, and that the millennia-long struggle for human beings to attain enlightenment under their own steam, as it were, came to an end. This claim must come as a surprise to the billion-plus Christians worldwide who assert that God became a human being in 1st century Palestine, and to the hundreds of millions of Hindus who believe that the divine Vishnu has taken human form on at least nine occasions.
As for Adidam, "the Path of the Heart," it boils down to guru-devotion or bhakti-yoga. What this means is that the devotee, by surrendering the heart and giving complete attention and devotion to Adi Da, allows the divine essence that is incarnate in Adi Da to break through the knot of self-concern and ego-contraction which is the source of all suffering. Again, this is not unique, at least from the perspective of comparative religion. Bhakti yoga is probably the most practiced form of Hindu spirituality, and many other religious traditions, Christianity and Shin Buddhism among them, see divine grace as the only "means" to salvation. For the devotees of Adidam, however, the salvific response to this devotion isn't simply taken on faith; rather, it takes the form of palpable energetic responses, called the "Bright" and the "Thumbs" by Adi Da, that transform the mind, soul, and body of the devotee. At least, that's what the book says.
Apart from the actual content, the book's style posed many problems. Hagiography isn't a genre popular with too many moderns, yours truly included, and the praise-filled prose becomes cloying just a few pages into the book. Adi Da's own commentary, quoted at length throughout the slender volume, is rife with arbitrary capitalization, underlining, and other annoying stylistic and typographic idiosyncrasies. Those features, combined with fairly impenetrable philosophy and a sense of inflated ego (which is to be expected, I guess, from the "promised God-man"), made for a less-than-thrilling read....more