Fantasies can be fun. Angelina Jolie and I have had some great times together. Only in my imagination, unfortunately. I would have had a lot more fun if she and I had met in reality.
In this instance I know the difference between fantasy and reality. When it comes to religion, however, the line dividing fiction and truth can be devilishly difficult to discern. In fact, there’s good reason to say that religiosity is nothing but belief in something that hasn’t yet been experienced.
Heaven. God. Jesus. Enlightenment. Nirvana. Allah. Tao. Buddha-nature. These are just words. Like Santa Claus, Easter Bunny, and Big Foot, they refer to entities that haven’t been proven to exist.
In short, they are fantasies. Yet for some reason most people consider that it is good to free ourselves from a belief in an imaginary Santa Claus, while it is bad to free ourselves from a belief in an imaginary God or other manifestation of divinity.
Hmmmmm. It seems to me that it’s always good to perceive reality as clearly as possible. If we call the ultimate reality “God,” then it makes sense that God will be approached by discarding falsehood and embracing truth. Every fantasy thrown out of the mind is one less bit of clutter that can obscure our perception of things as they are.
This is why I liked so much what my European churchless sister had to say. As shared in my previous post, she spoke about how she woke up from a self-hypnotic state in which mere belief had been confused with actual knowledge. She was speaking of a belief in Sant Mat, an Eastern form of spirituality, but her message applies equally to Christians, Jews, Muslims, or anyone who considers that blind faith is the core of spirituality.
Actually, faith is the rind. It can be discarded without losing anything important. In fact, faith in fantasies is what keeps us from reaching the Real Thing, so it has to be let loose before genuine spirituality can be grasped.
In his book, “Turning the Mind into an Ally,” Buddhist sage Sakyong Mipham describes the concentric onion skins of crap (my phrase, not his) that cover up “the point in the middle of the circle [that] represents the fortitude and clarity that underlie the wildness of our scattered mind.”
From crudest to most subtle, he says that these obscuring mental activities are: our life, fantasies, emotions, discursive thoughts, and subtle thoughts. Fantasies, then, are just about as destructive to meditative calm as is worrying about whether you remembered to set the recorder to tape the special two hour conclusion of “Lost” tonight (to pick an example out of my own onion skinned mind).
Mipham talks about taking a step toward the center of the meditation circle:
Here we might meet the full-blown fantasy. A fantasy is a very large thought that has the power to take us far, far away from the present moment. It’s like a story that we tell ourselves, a movie that we run, a soap opera that draws us in and puts us in a trance. Because it’s potent and absorbing, we’d sometimes rather believe a fantasy than reality. Under its spell, we don’t even remember that we’re meditating.
He gives the example of a student of his who had been meditating for a year. The student told Mipham about his experiences—insights and images had come up in meditation. He had passionate ideas that he wanted to discuss. Mipham told him to keep practicing. A year later he found the student calmer and more relaxed. When asked about the previous experiences, he said:
“Oh, I dropped all that. I realized it was just a giant thought. It lasted about a year, and in the past few months I’ve just seen it for what it was and let it go. It felt like dispersing a cloud.”
Jesus loves me and died for my sins so that I may enjoy everlasting peace with him in heaven. Full-blown fantasy. Let it go.
The guru who initiated me is God and will guide me back to the highest spiritual region. Full-blown fantasy. Let it go.
There is no God but God and Muhammad is his prophet. Full-blown fantasy. Let it go.
Jehovah made a covenant with his chosen people, the Jews, which will never be broken. Full-blown fantasy. Let it go.
Remember the immortal words of Philip K. Dick, blessed be his science fiction writer soul: “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
If your reality goes away when you stop fantasizing about it, it never was real to begin with.
Good post. We've always believed that disillusionment is a good thing. (In fact, you might be disillusioned if you ever saw Angelina without her makeup. She looks a lot like her father, Jon Voight.)
P.S. We assume you meant "Turning the Mind INTO an Ally."
Posted by: Editor at Large | May 24, 2006 at 03:59 PM
Oops, good proofreading, Editor. I refuse to believe that Angelina looks like her father. But now that you've got the idea in my head, my fantasy is starting to dissolve. I'll have to watch Tomb Raider again to get myself back to normal.
Posted by: Brian | May 24, 2006 at 08:07 PM
Thanks once again for a post which cuts through so much so simply! I especially like the last section - 'Full-blown fantasy; let it go.' So much of religion depends on accepting/believing the right things or you can't join the gang. If I say God is like this, it means he is not like that, thus he is limited. Even calling him God limits him. Even referring to him as 'him' is limiting. If the whole of human knowledge, understanding and experience was represented by one byte of information on my hard drive, then all the hard drives in the world would not being able to hold the knowledge, understanding and experience of 'God'.
Posted by: Paul | May 25, 2006 at 06:26 AM
Paul...I like the one byte of information on my hard drive analogy. It is similar to the one drop in an ocean or a grain of sand in a desert. I do have a concern. Is it a fact that our mind, when neutral and extremely open, is still not capable of some microscopic beginning understanding of God? I was hoping that someday I could discover at least that microscopic beginning. Oh well, is my hope a fantasy?
Posted by: Roger | May 25, 2006 at 08:10 AM
I think the mysteries of the universe are infinite while our understanding is always finite, but perhaps that is just a fantasy too.
Posted by: Hal | May 25, 2006 at 09:03 AM
If you want something testable, observable, something to bridge the gap btwn physics and metaphysics, you have to go to the work of Arthur M. Young. And it's not something you understand casually. Tho it is assessable to unspecialised thinking, it's helps to have a scientific and metaphysical education. Dont think your above it. It takes a lot of time.
Posted by: Running Snail | May 25, 2006 at 02:12 PM
What is measureable is real, science is not a belief system. Full-blown fantasy. Let it go.
Posted by: Edward | May 26, 2006 at 06:46 AM
Edward is correct. Can we all agree that,say, the Science of Chemistry is real? We all would say ...yes.. probably. On the other hand, is the Science of the Soul, or the Science of Salvation, or the Science of Spirituality real? Is it possible to measure salvation or spirituality? Any answers out there?
Posted by: Roger | May 26, 2006 at 08:55 AM
Science is real, but the universe is not a machine and cannot be precisely described mathematically, and neither can we. Science can only make approximations. Or maybe this is just a fantasy and one day we will be replaced by computers.
Posted by: Hal | May 26, 2006 at 11:04 AM
the heisienburg "uncertainty principle" at the particle level is where physics first shows that determinisim has to go out the window. The universe is not machanical, in other words. It has a creative, "undetermined" essence, as shown by that well proven principle.
Computers will never become alive or creative or self modivatived. They lack the 2nd level principle. Computers are totally determined actually. Also, goedel's "incompleteness theorem", as important as relativity yet less known, shows that computers are just tools and that's all they will ever have the capacity for.
Posted by: running snail | May 26, 2006 at 11:33 AM
The uncertainty principle is part of the mathematical theory of quantum mechanics and as such does not rule out a mechanistic description of the universe - one only has to add randomness to the machine. Goedel's theorem is not exactly what I was talking about. Just because it is impossible to write a computer program that can derive all true mathematical statements from a set of axioms that does not necessarily mean that the laws of the universe cannot all be derived from a finitely postulated mathematical theory. The question is, who is doing the derivation?
We are definitely on the same wavelength on the question of computer intelligence.
Posted by: Hal | May 26, 2006 at 12:50 PM
isnt' it true..
science is a fanatasy, let it go.
science has no answers other than how to observe things. When science trys to prove ultimate solutions, it becomes fanatastically metaphysical ie. Multiple/ zillions of universes..(required to explain life as a accident), sting theory of 11 dimemsion, hyper geometery / mulitdimension to explain forces like gravity..
All of these metaphysical speculations of science can never be tested or proven. The point is, is that science also becomes just as mythical when it comes to final explantions. BTW, I've never been tricked into believed string theory.
Posted by: running snail | May 28, 2006 at 03:19 PM
I have read a bit string theory in the popular literature. The remarkable thing about it is that is that it can be so complicated while making no testable predictions. I think that in the future progress at the frontiers of theoretical physics will be impossible without brain augmentations of some sort - the theories are just getting too complicated.
Posted by: Hal | May 28, 2006 at 07:06 PM
In my thinking, there must be less dimensions not more dimensions, I don't see string theory at all. Just because Realitivity took us all by surprise, doesn't mean every fantasy has ligitamacy.
Posted by: running snail | May 29, 2006 at 02:02 AM