It's such a Byzantine structure, all these notions about God, salvation, life after death, soul, spirit, ultimate meaning. The Grand Temple of Speculation sprawls endlessly, with more building continuously going on.
Floors piled on top of floors, rooms tacked on to rooms, furnishings added and subtracted as dogmatic decorators fine tune how they want things to look.
For most of my life I've enjoyed wandering through the building. I'm familiar with most of the basic architecture – the religious, mystical, spiritual, metaphysical, and philosophical teachings that have blossomed and multiplied from the dawn of recorded history (and likely long before that).
Now I look at the Grand Temple of Speculation from a more detached perspective.
Instead of judging the relative merits of this floor vs. that floor, this room vs. that room, the whole damn building strikes me as worthy of being torn down to bare ground.
This won't happen in reality, of course. Not with billions of people firmly committed to keeping the structure not only intact, but also to strengthening and expanding it.
But I can dream. I visualize huge pieces of the temple crumbling, shattering, falling in chunks with a roar. I don't see any part of it withstanding the explosive charges of reality.
Not a bit.
This goes against other dreams. Almost every believer, whether of the explicitly religious variety or of a more subtle spiritual sort, considers that in the end his or her chosen belief structure will keep on standing while others fade away.
At the Second Coming Jesus will show the doubters what's up. When Allah rends the veil, disbelievers will prostrate themselves before His Glory. Jehovah has some tricks up His sleeve for those who fail to follow the divine law. After death those who failed to find a god-realized guru will be thrown into the whirlpool of reincarnation again.
The details differ, naturally. But the common theme is that when the hurricane of ultimate truth blows by, only one part of the Grand Temple of Speculation will be left standing.
Those who have chosen to place their faith in that particular structure will be seated comfortably on soft lounges, sipping sweet juices while divine Muzak plays. The rest of us will be face down in the muck, clutching at whatever flimsy support our bloodied fingers can grasp, moaning and crying at what's befallen us, wishing we'd chosen a safer place to spend eternity.
Well, as I often say, maybe. But I doubt it.
I feel that this is a lot more likely: whatever ultimate reality is, whatever absolute truth is, it isn't like anything humans have been able to cognize, to describe, to speak of, to write holy books about.
If that whatever-the-heck-it-is were to make an appearance, every single human on Earth would cry out What the fuck! Unbelievable! I had it so goddamn wrong! (in his or her own profanity strewn language, naturally).
Religious believers. Scientists. Philosophers. Ordinary people. Geniuses. Idiots. Everybody. Our notions about reality would crumble before the real thing.
This presumes that there is such a beast – the real thing. But if there isn't, the same crumbling would occur. Because now the appearance would be a non-appearance. A void. A nothingness.
And that would collapse the Grand Temple of Speculation just as surely. Actually, with more force, since nothing is more destructive of beliefs without a foundation than nothing.
Whoosh…down the rabbit hole.
So to me it makes sense to keep our belief structures as simple as possible. A small thatched hut. Bamboo and palm fronds. Open on the sides to fresh air.
If it falls down, no big deal. We haven't settled in to lavish quarters on the ninetieth floor of a religious dogma tower. Best to stay as close to solid ground as possible. You never know when the high wind of reality is going to blow through.