Friday, June 10, 2011

Chaos, Anyone?

I've come to realize what my problem is with Jesus. I hear a lot about embracing Jesus and "being saved". As though suddenly opening a Bible or looking at an image of Jesus will cause my heart to overflow and explode. In fact, I can liken people who ask me to embrace Jesus to friends who say, "I know this really great, perfect guy--and he'd be perfect for you!" Then I meet the guy in question to be nice, and feel seriously underwhelmed. I mean, he might be a nice person, might do something interesting, might even be good-looking by some collective aesthetic standard. But I'm not feeling it. So--I think, "yeah, nice guy, wouldn't mind a chat over some coffee, but otherwise...nah."

What typically happens when I say "thanks no thanks" is a backward shift in tactic. The tone becomes ominous. "You HAVE to embrace Jesus, or you'll burn for all eternity." Now just a second. Here's this nice perfect guy, suddenly he's serial killer material. As in, "Love me bitch, or I'll kill you." Call me crazy if you wish, but this makes me just a tad uneasy. I'd get a restraining order, and move to an island under an assumed name if I encountered a person like that. That isn't what Jesus is supposed to symbolize. But that's what evangelists end up making him symbolize. Symbols change over time--they may still retain their original meaning for some, but this kind of repeated barrage of Jesus LOVES you/Jesus is going to PUNISH you ends up sounding like a form of torture porn, not liberation from suffering. Perhaps Christian missionaries and evangelists will want to ponder this.

On another note, I found an interesting blog by Hyperritual, who posted this Magical Probability Calculator (with thanks to Weiser Books for posting).The formulas come from Liber Kaos, written by Peter Carroll, one of the originators of the idea of Chaos Magic. While I understand the principles behind Chaos Magic, there is a superficial irony in the notion of putting together "chaos" with things like mathematical probability. We acknowledge the overriding condition of Chaos, and deal with it by using order and rationality.

If there is one activity that I think all humans engage in, regardless of education, culture, class, race, economic status, or religion, it's attempting to find order in chaos. Chaos is thought of as what we call "God", though it is more specifically like the idea of Tao, or the No-Thingness of reality in Hinduism and Buddhism. (More like the Eastern idea of God than the Western one). There is no rationality, because the Source is beyond anything like "mind", or anything that our egos can relate to. Hindu Satgurus, like the one I've received a mantra from, are fond of what Hindus call "leela"--the deliberate and senseless screwing up of something, with the intention of making you abandon your delusions of control, expectation, and outcome. "Leela" literally means "play", and was often attributed to Krishna when he played tricks on the Gopis, stole butter, and other such things. The word "play" is intentional here, because we tend to take ourselves, our goals, and our beliefs much too seriously.

Naturally, this will make some of you think of the Principia Discordia, the gospel of Eris (goddess of Chaos). It's a very funny read, and it's been described as "religion pretending to be a joke, or a joke pretending to be a religion". Some people have posited that this was written by Robert Anton Wilson, but the authorship is really anonymous. The basic idea that Principia lays out, in appropriately archane language, is that humans suffer the "curse of Greyface". They believe everything is somber and serious and have destroyed the joy of living. So, the Discordians fight back against "Greyface" by being ridiculously silly. Anyone who joins the "religion" is automatically declared a Pope.

This brings me back to a question posted by Weiser Books on their Twitter feed this week (paraphrased by me)--can one live a life according to "Chaos Magic", or is it just something theoretical, an abstract exercise? Can we really embrace "chaos" as a way of living in our societies? Our minds want sense and order--we want to classify, label, measure, and reason. Scientific method is based on causality (even though David Hume proved that causality is philosophically flawed). Cause and effect. We assume it, and scratch our heads when things fall outside of our sphere of understanding.In Eastern meditation, the Vedantics, who have no image of God at all, still meditate on something like a candle flame. The mind needs to focus on something. It's an incredibly rare occurrence if someone can do so and still live a normal life in the world. I would suggest that such a person has gone beyond being human. Even the originators of Chaos Magic themselves suggest using religion and its symbols "pragmatically".

In the end, it goes back to the idea of Surrender. (Which, by the way, is the meaning of the word "Islam"). We spend our lives making careers, families, setting goals. But it's all temporal, and has no value or meaning at the Eternal level. When the Adept crosses the Abyss, there is no ego left--the weight of the ego is systematically shed on the spiritual path. The same is true of the great saints of Catholicism--reading John of the Cross or Teresa of Avila shows you this burning away, and the Void that is created. This is the meaning of the Goddess Kali--her destruction involves stripping away all of one's delusions about reality until there's nothing left but naked Consciousness. To survive such a thing requires no attachments, just a willingness to accept everything as it comes without judging it against your ego's ethics and standards. Needless to say, this is incredibly difficult--and more difficult to switch back and forth between this state and the state of "living in the world".

In a little piece in the Principia Discordia called "Starbuck's Pebbles", we read: "The real reality is there, but everything you KNOW about "it" is in your mind and yours to do with as you like. Conceptualization is art, and YOU ARE THE ARTIST. Convictions cause convicts." (We are also helpfully told, "Never write in pencil unless you are on a train or sick in bed".)

Austin Osman Spare, anyone?

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