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.