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September 18, 2023


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“Where Tao is, equilibrium is.” – Tao, being the principle that underlies the whole universe – and which we understand as nature is also reflected in Brian’s quote here from Alan Watts: “We see God every time we open our eyes; we inhale Him at every breath; we use His strength in every movement of a finger; we think Him in every thought, although we may not think of Him, and we taste Him in every bite of food.”

This I believe is very pertinent for us today. I have just finished reading Karen Armstrong’s book ‘Sacred Nature – Restoring our Ancient Bond with the Natural World.’ She talks about how for most of human history, and in almost all the world’s cultures, nature was believed to be sacred, and our God or gods to be present everywhere in the natural world. When people in the West began to separate God and nature in modern times, it was not just a profound breach with thousands of years of accumulated wisdom: it also set in train the destruction of the natural world. Armstrong locates our very capacity to willingly inflict so much violence on the natural world in the severed link between nature and the divine, which developed in early modern European Christianity.

I wrote a couple of posts ago: “The problem is, people have become disconnected from their nature's - and nature in general. They try to find themselves through objects and pseudo-spiritual pursuits. They need to come home to themselves.” By pseudo-spiritual I mean that which emanates from thought, from mind-created beliefs, desires and opinions that do not exist in nature.

The mind (the cognitive faculties) with its accumulated wealth of information is a necessary survival factor; we seem to have usurped this function to assuage our lack of understanding, our fears and insecurities, to create and invest our minds and the universe with meanings that are unnatural – and ultimately, unneeded.

Also, it’s quite amusing to read some of the comments where Breer’s and Watts’s work is somewhat disregarded due to their private behaviour. If we were to do the same with many of the great composers and artists whose behaviours were questionable would their plauded works also be defamed?

This is really why the experiences and logic of Watts are going to be different for different people. 'One size fits all' doesn't really work. He is speaking about an epiphany, which one has in a moment. But he is ignoring his own shortcomings, which are just as real.

After the Epiphany, after we see the stars, comes the reality that our feet are firmly planted in the mud, and to live in those stars we have a job to do to get there.

There is the work that follows. We are, for any number of reasons, given insight. But to see that land and to live there are two different things. Because, as St. Paul wrote so eloquently, we don't behave according to our own values. We act as conditioned animals, doing what we know isn't right. In that state we are two beings divided.

Watts and Breer suggest we just give up the harmony and oneness and go for the instant gratification, promising that the oneness is still there. But it is that indulgence which separates us from the whole. It creates attachment, habit and addiction. It blinds us to the harm our own behavior does to ourselves and others. That is behavioral, not conceptual.

And unfortunately, he short-changes Christianity and Christian Mysticism when he suggests Christianity is dualistic. Doing this, Watts engages in dualism, and hiding addiction, becoming victim to addiction, he lives in dualism. He is right, to a degree. But selflessness and Oneness is also right there in Christianity:

"Not my will, by thy will be done."
Luke 22:42

"I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
Hebrews 8 / Exodus

Christianity, Buddhism, Judaism and so many schools of meditation within Hinduism and Sikhism are all about submission to a greater influence. And in submission there is both acceptance and selflessness. If we submit all we are, all our thoughts, all our attachments, then we are nothing. Our old life has come to an end. We live as part of something greater. This is the path to oneness, and humility. Yet it is a daily practice, struggle, endeavor. Without this effort, we react without thinking. We become slave to old habits, conditioning, and our addictions, even to old limited thinking and bigotry. And that just adds more insulation to that experience of Oneness, Equality, and Respect for all things. It is the very cause of Dualism.

Becoming aware, and submitting, breaking the cycle with new behavior instead of simply mindless indulgence, is a habit that lays down new grooves of conditioning. That isn't spirituality alone. It is also behavioral science, and addiction therapy.

People, using thinking, get a notion of this 'selflessness through acceptance and submission', but not the full understanding, that only comes from being there, and that is hard work for many years. Hard work every day. Zen Buddhists work for decades to still the mind. But some westerners, like Watts, think this is pointless. And that is pride and ignorance speaking. Steeped in addiction, he isn't going to understand. But having any experience of overcoming, even momentarily, that path, and its distance, and the need for the help of a good friend, becomes evident.

We can't do it alone. We can't sustain alone. And the personal lives of Breer, Watts, and YOU and I, are proof of that.

So what is the point if we cant elevate our game to something worthy?

But we can make progress. First, by finding a path of practice, and submitting to that. Then, finding faith in that practice, and in the teacher who practices it. Without faith, we don't practice, we just go through the motions.

With faith we bring our desperation for progress there, and that focus helps. With faith, we experience in a moment our goal.

But by short circuiting the process, by claiming there is no work to be done to overcome ourselves, Breer and Watts basically make their own writings meaningless, purposeless and useless.

They point to something real, but have no means to get there except to say "Just accept that you are already there" addictions and all.

No,you aren't. Yes it is within you, all of it. But you have limited access at best. And your own behavior is proof of that.

In this way, their well-intended and beautiful prose does a disservice because it is NOT disconnected from their own behavior.

But, as seen as their honest view from their place, in a larger realm where the struggles of others in the past are real, where the power to overcome is real and worthy of respect, then Breer and Watts writing has a place of honor..One with the rest of the body of spiritual literature. True Acceptance means accepting the fact that we are imperfect and have work to do. It's the first step, not the last.

Who sums his fellows up at sight
Brings wonder to their eyes
But he who sums himself aright
Alone is truly wise.
To conquer others
Great strength and power will need..
But he who conquers his own lust
Performs the greater deed.

Tao of Leo Tsze

Wow. So True

""" The Grace of God is offered freely to all, but through pride man will not accept it.

He cannot bear the thought that he is absolutely powerless to lift himself up and that the only chance of salvation is simply to accept something which is offered as freely to the saint as to the sinner. """"


"the only chance of salvation is simply to accept something which is offered as freely to the saint as to the sinner."

This is the promise of all religions, but not of spirituality.

All religions, including Watts' and Breer's versions of Atheism, offer enlightenment, Oneness, "Salvation", Freedom from whatever enslaves us, heaven (or for the earth-bound, hedonism) merely for the cost of Accepting things as they are, and doing nothing, since of course, you can't do anything and never could.
Accepting Christ into our heart, etc...

'Just Accept and you will be perfect. You are already perfect. You are already saved.
No work, all fantasy.
And Garden Gnomes shall guide you.'

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