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September 22, 2023


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Spirituality without spirit is, by definition, impossible.

But not to worry, you DO have all the ingredients for a hearty bowl of nihilism. Enjoy!


Hi Brian:

I can't help but smile at what you wrote, and happy that you have emancipated yourself (no one else can do that, except that this process is part of all of us, like bubbles rising on soda) from all those restrictive chains about what it takes to be free.

These are conceptual notions we bind ourselves with. It is reasonable for you to attribute all this to the agency of another organization, or other people, since these are the teachings you have interpreted as such.

But perhaps it is just you outgrowing your own understanding of these things.

I believe we operate at levels of consciousness. At the smallest level we have no idea who or what we are, or that we exist. We don't even think about it. We are all about reacting instinctively to the environment: Fight, Flight, Feeding and Reproduction (the four "F"s of life). Then, in the next level of awareness, we become aware that we are indeed an entity. There is your identity as a person who is alive and has agency and responsibility.

But Neuroscience, and Mysticism, both assert that this is just a fleeting concept. You are part of the biochemical, physical reality that is changing all the time, microsecond by microsecond. And your identity is nothing more than a neurological, chemical copy made moment by moment. Like the dots on a computer screen, even when they appear the same, they are regenerating, projected from a copy of an earlier copy all the time. So that in a single minute, "you" are nothing but the last copy made barely a microsecond ago. There is the illusion of "sameness" simply because that copy, even if it is changed or degraded, knows no other, except in distant memory.

Since we are connected to all things biologically, physically, all that is here is with us and we are in it.

The God, Nirvana, that we strive for is always with us, built in, can also be intimately experienced in a moment, but not under our own control. Conceptually you may understand this all the time, but the reality is experiential, and that is generally not under volitional control: to build the environment for that to happen as you wish is work, meditation, prayer, etc.

And just like any physical reality we experience from skill or practice, like the runner's high after passing the wall, this can be brought under your volitional control to some extent under conditions that you create in your life.

So, rather than have restrictions placed upon you, you discover conditions that facilitate or impede that experience of wonderful peace, happiness, and companionship with Creation. And you build the environment to facilitate these.

You don't need to make this "Other". You can discover it for yourself, as you proceed, within yourself.

The notion of personal progress is intimidating to some people. But, maybe it is from my Behavioral background, change is inescapable. When you observe people of any age, you see they are always adapting and changing to situations. Therefore change is not only possible, it happens automatically. Usually that's subconscious, and reactive to the environment. But our behavior also changes the environment, and as we become more aware of that, we can create a better, more conducive environment for ourselves, and most effectively if we can solicit the support of others who understand and can help us. As we choose peace as our response, we find we are building a more peaceful environment around us.

No one should fear change, only become aware of what is already happening and in that enlightenment, facilitate their own movement forward.

There's something to this. Long ago, I recall the Retired Professor telling me, "Satsangis all seem to see the Path as this huge problem." (note: he was referring to other Satsangis, and not his own experience of the Path.

I also recall a famous rock star Satsangi, now an exer, offering one of the most insightful observations of any exer ever. I paraphrase: "Have you ever found yourself enjoying life as it is, perhaps a beautiful day, or laughter with a friend, or just feeling good for no reason in particular....and then you remember the Path. And instantly the happiness is gone."

Another anonymous exer famously said: "the perfect Satsangi is the perfect corpse." That is, the Path is a striving for perfection, and the closest we can ever come to that perfection is to be dead. No senses, no mind, no making karma.

Eckhart Tolle critiqued the Path. Again paraphrasing: "You are called to be perfect like the Guru with the understanding that you'll never really achieve that perfection." Recipe for frustration, possibly.

Fawn Brodie wrote a masterpiece on the life of Joseph Smith, founder of Mormonism. She left that church, and remarked that leaving that Path "was like taking off a heavy overcoat one had been wearing their entire lives."

I doubt don't the sincerity of all the above. But should we flatly conclude that The Path and all religions like it are a useless and not-so-amazing technicolored dreamcoat?

I would believe that, were it the case the exers of the Path truly and completely renounce the Path. The thing is, I haven't seen that happen. Invariably, the exers I've known simply seek out a new religion or at least a new philosophical framework to work with. They keep on meditating, They keep on with the vegetarian diet. And they value morality.

For one to be truly "no self" would be to completely renounce all philosophy, all morality, all meditation. And there would be no point in avoiding 5 Guys. It would be truly and comprehensively giving in to Me. Many of us came to the Path from that woeful non-serviam pit.

The good news is that there are ways to practice "dualistic" religion so that it produces genuine peace of mind. The bad news is that an actual escape from our existential situation is quite impossible. We can't run from who we are and our place in this universe. We can assuredly make refinements in Jacob's ladder, but there's no negating our constitutional position as a soul in God's world.

Manjit, I feel that what I'm experiencing in my newly advanced churchless state is the exact opposite of nihilism. I feel more connected to the world, to other people, to the things that I enjoy, all that, since I've stopped viewing myself as being on a quest for some mythical Promised Land in a supernatural sphere.

Life is simpler, more direct, less conceptual. I experience "what is" to a greater degree than when I was seeking "what might be."

Last night I had a powerful dream. I don't really believe in dream interpretation, but this one might have been related to this blog post that I wrote yesterday.

What I remember most vividly is this. There was a house, a large impressive house, made of beautiful wood with large windows and a modern design. Then it caught fire. I noticed that the house was next to, or even part of, a huge tree.

This wasn't a big tree. It was way beyond big. Its branches covered most of the sky. It looked like an oak, but an absolutely gigantic oak, many times larger than any earthly oak.

Maybe it was the house fire that started it to topple. Maybe some other reason. Dreams aren't logical. I was quite a ways from the tree, but it was so huge I worried that I'd be hit by the massive destruction -- broken branches flying all over the place -- when the tree toppled.

It looked like the tree was going to miss me. But in an attempt to be safe I took shelter behind a grassy berm, a slope maybe four or five feet tall. If I laid down behind it, I figured any flying debris would pass over me due to the berm.

The huge tree was falling in slow motion. As it was about to hit the ground, I prepared for the loud sound of its fall and the mass of branches that would fly in every direction. However, there was absolute silence. No sound at all.

I was lying on my stomach, looking at the grassy slope I was sheltered behind. I noticed a trail of ants. I said to the person next to me, "Life goes on." That was the end of the dream.

To hazard an interpretation, perhaps the giant oak represented the supernatural religious beliefs I'd embraced for 35 years. At first I feared giving them up for the destruction losing the beliefs could cause to my supposedly immortal soul.

But when I loosened my grip on the beliefs, when they slowly toppled, there was no real problem, likely because the beliefs weren't real to begin with. Like the falling tree, they made no impact when they hit the ground of reality because they were an illusion.

Now I'm content with embracing the small things of life, not the illusory giant religious metaphysics that used to captivate me. Maybe that was the meaning of the ants. Small things, yet genuine things.

The Ants, the tree, the grass, the house, the fire and you on the grass are all part of you.

No part was false. Even the sky was part of you.

But it's OK when layers peel away...

"Barn's burned down.
Now I can see the moon."
Zen Flesh Zen Bones

OK Brian
A little more about your dream...

The tree is your body. It has its roots in the earth, it soars into the sky, and it seems connected to all things.

The house is the part of your body that you see, the conscious part, and the life you have built out of it.

The house is always on fire, as beautiful as it was, always in decay. Little by little burned away by disease, wear, abuse and time. At some point the house and the tree come to an end. It seems shattering, cataclysmic.

But it matters not to you.

You exist in another place, beyond a knoll on a green pasture.

The ants are the procession of your own lives. Nearly endless and worth no consideration. But there they are in all their tiny glory for your perusal on this warm and sunny afternoon lying comfortably on this gassy knoll.

Oops..grassy knoll.;)

It seems to be often the way; as young, restless people want to ‘find themselves’ it can naturally lead to experimenting with various lifestyles – perhaps of a worldly or spiritual nature. Whatever the manner of search or searches at some point the seeker finally returns home. In this scenario, coming home is to drop the fruitless attempt of hoping to find a ‘self’, a ‘me’ that is permanently happy, separate and above mundane appearing, everyday living.

The mind which produces the ’self’ phenomenon being the repository of past experience and knowledge and the totality of conceptual thinking, becomes weakened or drops away, revealing a natural, harmonious and efficient organism that is perfectly adapted to navigate and survive its environment.

Everything that our habitual (and quite normal) supernatural manner of thinking imposes on natural reality, falls on barren ground; barren due to there being no self/ego demanding something special from life which does not exist in reality. As Brian states: - “However, I feel like a large metaphysical load has been lifted from me now that I no longer believe that I have to make of life something larger than it naturally is.”

Hi Ron:

The human brain and the body have their own "machine language" of symbols. They use these constantly to coordinate with one another, organize impressions, conditioning and memory.

Therefore whatever we experience becomes codified in this symbolic "machine language" within us. The core language subset of this symbolic language is hard-coded, though our own impressions and conditioning can modify it.

You may have a friend. But you are actually listening to and speaking to the brain's symbolic interpretation of your friend.

Similarly, a lifestyle, a set of rules, can appear as a physical object within our own psyche...a friend or an enemy. But all characters are part of the internal RPG within the human brain. They are all part of "you". This is a Role Play Game the brain engages in all the time to figure out what has just happened, what is happening and condition and prepare for more of it. Even the body speaks to the brain and vice versa using this language all the time. And there is intelligence throughout the body, not merely the brain.

Dreams let us see that language, often because of strong impression, or some change in biochemistry (what we ate or drank or medications we used). And sometimes the brain and body are trying to tell us something, though usually they are just trying to digest and organize impressions and conditioning.

When we have a dream of missing an exam in college, though we were in college decades ago, that is symbolic of some current fear, anxiety and concern.

To interpret dreams thus, is to try to understand what emotions, impressions, fears, angers, losses, frustrations, victories and struggles the body and brain are currently engaged in. You don't actually get an impression of the future or even the past. You get a snapshot of what the brain and body are trying to "compress", record and re-wire currently as they use this symbolic language. Therefore whatever is happening inside of Brian that he saw in the dream is something very current.

What I love about this dream is that nothing actually affects Brian. He is a free agent, an observer of all that is going on. That is also, as you suggested, a natural state.

He doesn't die when the tree dies. Whether belief system or body, he is above and separate from it, and there was never any need for fear of loss. All that mattered is the observer, who is entirely safe. An observer who is very real, witnessed from the point of view observed, but who remains without or beyond description or qualities.

The highest moment for the body, or for any spiritual or philosophical belief, is heightened awareness, the "enlightenment" of the observer. But that can happen naturally, as you wrote. It doesn't require any artificial-made thing, though these things can certainly help or become impediments. When they become a burden, when they become the "other" that is a part of ourselves we have not been able to let go of yet.

But our subconscious knows that this is just another thing. We aren't our beliefs, just as we are not this body or brain. They are machinery we use, that is all. And when their time of utility passes, we go on happy and unencumbered.

This isn't supernatural. It's just natural. Supernatural is the term created and abused by and for people who have no insight into these things. People who think what is unseen must be some form of magic that violates the laws of physics. But for those who see the connections, they are all just part of the same physical reality, a reality far more complex and subtle than we understood. A reality where things are being born and die, but which actually never are born and never die, merely transform over and over, continuously. Nothing is created nor destroyed, merely transformed (Second law of thermodynamics).

No Self, no free will. Imagine yourself an intelligent robot. Pain and pleasure lose all meaning. You can forgive anything. You can direct yourself toward any purpose.

The bent baba of beas , gurinder singh Dhillon has been the leader of the rssb, a cult of nothingness, a complete waste of life and false promises for blind followers that a scared to question anything. Gurinder and his predecessors have invented a method for people that are seeking for some kind of release and sadly for these people to be exploited for their money, their mind, and body and even soul to be recycled. The only people that gain from this are gurinder, the billionaire baba, and his sons. Beware the devil hiding as a false baba. The one that has no answers , the center of all confusion, the one that says your a marked soul yet has opened hundreds of center's world wide. World domination and greed.

Hi Brian. You wrote: "Manjit, I feel that what I'm experiencing in my newly advanced churchless state is the exact opposite of nihilism."

Well this is great. I'm genuinely happy and pleased for you.

However, whilst I can appreciate you maybe moving into different, perhaps more positive modes of being and inhabiting the world on a subjective level, and are stumbling and bumbling trying to frame that within words and concepts, I am merely pointing out the obvious fact that your philosophy of "no-self" and "no free-will" also applies to a rock. There is nothing in your philosophy, Horatio, which alludes to any quality of being or existence that is not dead, inert, non-existent, insentient, etc.

If your entire philosophy describes a state of being and existence indistinguishable from a corpse or a rock, then I suggest you need to up your philosophical Gong Fu, Grasshopper.

You can always distinguish the intellectual and conceptual "mystics" who think "enlightenment" is a set of beliefs, those who are led by words and concepts, from those who are led by deep experience, and to whom words are an afterthought; the intellectual is hiding their face behind their hands whilst saying "you can't see me", whereas the mystic is playfully moving their hands, blowing raspberries and saying PEEK-A-BOO!!

Thanks for sharing your dream, it is most interesting. The excellent James Hillman, a Jungian and dream psychologist, I think wrote a whole book on ants and insects in dreams...you may find it interesting, if it isn't too woo for you (is anything not too woo for you if it isn't rabidly, foaming at the mouth, anti-religious and anti-mystery? :). IIRC, I think he said ants often represent the small details in your life....which is pretty much what you said, so good going on the dream interpretation!!

Hi Spence - you wrote to Brian: "OK Brian A little more about your dream...The tree is your body..........The ants are the procession of your own lives. Nearly endless and worth no consideration."

I often enjoy the spirit of your posts, and the intention behind them - but it is comments like the above which show your predilection to engage with beliefs and opinions above reality itself, and then to preach it as if it is an unquestioned reality.

You have not engaged with Brian's OWN interpretation of his dream at all, and instead have proffered your own pet interpretation of it as if it is fact. Could you not have prefaced your, imo wildly inaccurate, interpretation, with a "here's one possible" or "here's my" "interpretation"? That would have been far more intellectually honest, rather than pretending you know what Brian's dream signifies and means for him?

Anyway, enough of this, I'm feeling quite sleepy just discussing this......sweet dreams folks.....

The really funny thing is my belief and interest in spirituality, altered states of consciousness, psychedelics, and occultism are what got me INTO -not away from- neuroscience and the “self illusion” thing. It also got me into Daniel Dennet, Susan Blackmore, Sam Harris, and many other’s work. Nice blog.

Keep up good work.

I believe I’m a ‘spiritual naturalist.’, but i’m not sure.

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