Published by Steve Copland at Smashwords
Copyright 2011 by Steve Copland
Cover Photograph "Reach" by Donald Boyd, New Zealand
All rights reserved solely by the author. The author guarantees all contents are original and do not infringe upon the legal rights of any other person or work. The author expressly allows the copying of this book for the purposes of helping people to come to know perfection.
All Biblical quotes are taken from the New International Version.
The 'fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom', but love is the perfection of it.
What is Perfection?
A little boy is playing on the beach. He scoops handfuls of sand into a plastic container, pats it down, holds his hand over the top and quickly flips it up-side-down. Very carefully he lifts the container off the packed sand and sits back to see the result. A piece of sand has stuck to the container and there's a broken corner on his sandcastle. Frustrated, he knocks it down, flattens the sand and starts again.
A girl is picking wild flowers to take to her mother. She holds the stems and inspects the petals. This one is out of shape, that one has been partially eaten by an insect, that one has a brown spot. She rejects them all until she finds that one which looks perfect. She picks it, a smile on her face as she runs to her mother and offers the gift.
A guy is cleaning his car. He isn't religious in any way. Indeed, if I asked him his opinion about spiritual perfection, he would likely tell me he never thinks about it. He soaps up the car, rinses it off, dries it with another cloth and steps back for a look. He walks around the vehicle searching for a spot he may have missed. Finding one, he rubs and rubs until it's gone. Then he gets his wax and does the whole 'wax on, wax off' thing until that car is shining like a new one.
A teenage girl is choosing a pair of shoes. Her boyfriend is sitting on a chair in the shop trying to look interested and wondering how on earth she knows which ones look better or worse 'cos they all look much the same to him. She stands in front of the mirror; she turns, lifts her foot and puts it down. She looks to him for an opinion and he nods encouragingly. As far as he's concerned she looks good in any of them. However, she pulls them off, takes them back to the shelf and tries another pair.
A young man stayed at my apartment the night before his wedding. The next morning he got up early and went for a hair cut. On his return he dressed for the wedding. New white pristine shirt, black bowtie, dark suit and immaculately polished shoes. After everything was on, he stood in front of the mirror trying to get a disobedient lock of hair to sit in the place he truly believed it should be. He patted, he coaxed and fiddled with it for several minutes, combing and combing. When he was done, it looked exactly the same to me; I couldn't see the difference at all, but he did.
All over the world, every day, people strive for perfection. We may not even be aware of it. We are renovating the house; spending hours pouring through wallpaper books, color charts and trying to imagine what that perfect room would look like. We are buying vegetables at the supermarket. We grope our way through tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots and cabbages discarding anything which appears to have a flaw. We are shopping for new clothes. Hundreds of racks of different brands that are there because someone will buy them, but we have a specific idea of what looks best on us and we seek it out, try it on and reject it, unless we are convinced that it completes the image we desire to create about ourselves.
There is no doubt in my mind that humanity has an inbuilt desire for perfection which is manifested in many areas of our lives. But what is perfection, and can we ever hope to experience it as a permanent companion?
Imagine, for example, perfect knowledge, knowing all things. Imagine being able to understand perfectly the dynamics of quantum physics, as though it were a kindergarten class or to know every minute function of every cell within the human body as simply as understanding a child's jigsaw puzzle; to know the names of every star ever formed or the movements of every ant in every place in the world at the same time, or how many liters were in the oceans at any given moment and to know the actions, emotions, choices and destinies of every person ever born or to be born. These few examples force us to recognize our human limitations.
And how would we imagine perfect power? We can imagine having incredible strength, we can imagine having a powerful mind, but what would perfect power mean? Whenever we think of such a thing we are forced to begin with something outside of ourselves and admit that we are essentially pretty powerless beings. We can create nuclear bombs. Wow! Does that make us powerful? Compared to fish and potatoes we are powerful creatures. But hey, the sun emits more energy in one second than all of the energy produced by humanity in our entire history, including all of the nuclear weapons we currently have in stock. Who could create such a thing, millions of such things? A being of perfect power could create our universe as easily, as if He was making a pot of soup. Perfect power! I cannot even begin to get my mind around such a concept.
People use the word 'perfection' to mean something which may not be perfect at all. In fact, every day we demonstrate our limitations in the way we speak of perfection. When a child is born, we say 'a perfect baby boy or girl', when we ask for a cup of tea or coffee to be made a certain way we may say 'it's perfect', and when we see an athlete or performer give an incredible show, we may say they have perfected their specialty. Then the child grows, it throws a tantrum, the tea gets cold, the dancer trips and the athlete misses his timing, and we know that what we were witnessing is not perfection at all, but rather people being what we are, limited creations trying to do our best.
If we are honest, it seems almost impossible for us to imagine perfection because we are trying to imagine something that, left to ourselves, is impossible for us to be. If we look up and compare ourselves to a being of absolute perfection, the one many call God, our limitations become obvious, therefore, we lower the bar, we bring perfection down to manageable levels and compare ourselves to less advanced life forms or other human beings. And yet, despite the impossibility of us ever reaching anything like perfect knowledge or power, something drives us to head in that direction. In fact, we seem to be almost obsessed with perfection. It is as though something within us beckons us upward, calls us to be more than earthbound creatures.
All around us we try to create images of perfection. Take advertising as an example. Glamorous pictures of beautiful women, airbrushed, flawless, the work of the creative designer using computer programs to eliminate that which we perceive as imperfections. The nose is too big, the eyes too narrow, the mouth needs to be fuller! How about a nip and a tuck, a few lumps of silicon, and while we're at it, remove the moles, the scars, that weird birthmark and get those teeth straightened and whitened. The cosmetics, fashion, beauty treatments and cosmetic surgery industries can testify to our obsession with trying to look perfect.
And what of those photos of gorgeous tropical islands; aqua blue waters, palm trees waving gently in a warm breeze, golden sands on deserted beaches. As a commercial photographer in the eighties I would spend hours waiting for that "perfect moment", my lens fitted with various filters to make the sea more blue, the perfect light to make the sand look like liquid gold, all to convince the holiday seeker that here was paradise on earth and the resort for the naturalist, those folk who want to run around in their birthday suit and do the whole Adam and Eve thing. All is well, until some half-starved mosquito vampire decides that your backside would make a good meal.
We get tired of reality. We get tired of constant disappointment of how things really are, tired of bad news and natural disasters, tired of toothache and bee stings, the common cold and wet feet on a winter's day, our partner's bad habits and trying to hide our own; tired of having to pack the one-piece and leave the bikini at home 'cos the 'wonder diet' made us so hungry we gained five pounds, and tired of those doom and gloom, apocalyptic, end of the world guys who seem to be everywhere these days. How about some perfection for a change…just a taste, at least on my annual holiday.
We live our lives wanting to feel, to experience that which seems beyond ourselves. There is a drive within us to go higher, deeper, to experience what we can almost imagine could be. We want to play the perfect game of golf, to be way under par. But what would a perfect game mean; 18 hole-in-ones? We strive for better, indeed, we seem to be driven to go faster, hit longer, and look better.
The Bible says we are 'made in the image of God'. We could translate that as 'made in the image of the manifestation of perfection'. Is it the 'image' - whatever that means - the image of perfection which drives us towards the origin of that image? Is there somewhere within us, something of the perfection of our Creator, something which we feel is more than a mere reflection, rather more like a calling. Do we sometimes hear that call, a mysterious intangible hand that reaches out to us to go beyond and above?
We are sitting on a rock as the sun is going down. There are no sounds of humanity, no traffic, no planes, no father screaming for the kids to pack up their sand buckets and get into the car after wiping their feet. In that brief beautiful moment we imagine that we hear an inaudible call, feel an invisible force. But the sound disappears just at that moment when we think we may understand what it is, and the force seems to have no definite direction. We thought for a moment that we could almost reach out and touch perfection, we sensed something. We felt the warmth of the setting sun and the joy of life, we sensed the vibrations in the sand as the waves rolled in and as we stared at the light before us, we had this crazy idea we could walk out along the golden path on the sea towards it. We almost get up and start towards the waves, but that instinct within reminds us that human beings don't generally walk on water, so we stay rooted to our rock. And then the sun sets, we pick up our sandals, head back to the car and find the kids have left half the beach on the back seat.
Why do we have this passion to find that which seems impossible for us? So few people live in contentment, even less would say they are completely satisfied with life all of the time. When we are teenagers, we dream of the future. It seems, we will live forever and have the time to fulfill every desire. In our twenties the bite of reality begins to tear the fabric of our dreams; in our thirties we are looking forward with less expectation and beginning to look back to find the point at which we took the wrong path. At forty to fifty we make some desperate last attempts at realizing dreams we have compromised with, and after that we simply become resigned to the fact that we were just silly young dreamers.
The paradox of perfection is like a constant invisible inquisitor who judges us and our every move. We create movies about that which is beyond ourselves; movies like Superman, but we always feel the need to add that flaw, that weakness, the green kryptonite of our own imperfection is written into all that we create. Superman is powerful, but would it be possible for us to create a character that possessed perfect power? If we are honest, we cannot even imagine such a thing and yet we cannot stop trying to.
And what of perfect love, perfect justice or perfect holiness? Perhaps it is easier for most of us to believe that we are products of evolution and if humanity survives, in a million years time our descendents will have realized what we sense is possible but infinitely out of reach. Surely, that's a cop-out, for there is another side to this seemingly depressing scenario. Let's call it 'hope' or perhaps even 'faith' would suffice. Great words, but there is one even greater than these, that word we know as love. In terms of understanding the possibilities of human perfection love stands apart, for love is immeasurable and is written into the very core of who we are if indeed we are 'made in the image of God'. When it comes to love, perfection is tangible and even reachable, even if only for brief moments.
Have you ever tasted or experienced a thought or feeling which could only be described as perfect? If you have ever had a moment of absolutely unselfish love towards another person, then you will know what I am speaking of. It may have been your first love, it may have been when you were tickling your giggling child, or it may have been an overwhelming sense of compassion for someone. For all our flaws, we humans have an ability to feel a depth of love which cannot be measured, if only for a short time. These are the moments when the 'image of God' reflects through us, for we only experience 'perfect' love through that form of love which is pure, the love that is selfless, the love that flows from us, rather than the affection we so often seek to fill our emptiness.
So why is it so difficult for us to even get a taste of that illusive perfection which pulls us like metal to a magnet? We are all broken creatures, imperfect creatures. We search for ways to mend the brokenness, to fill the emptiness; desperately trying to feel what we instinctively sense is possible. The truth is that the pieces are distorted, out of shape and full of flaws. Only the manufacturer can repair those broken parts, only He can perfect their shape so that they fit together in His original image. Our attempts to be unbroken may be well meaning, but He may need to break us completely in order to put us together correctly. The reasons for that are complex, but as we explore this issue of perfection it will become clear that only a complete transformation will suffice if we are to ever experience the perfect love we are created for in a way that lasts.
I believe that Perfect Love is the primal source and motivation of all there is. Perfect Love is at the heart of creation, Perfect Love is the reason we are here in the first place and Perfect Love is the goal of humanity. The seed of this Love is within every person, a seed which is forced to grow within the soil of our imperfection, a seed which is watered with all of the bitter essence of our flawed human condition, a seed which can never by itself fulfill what it was created to be. That seed requires hope and faith and a new connection with the source before it can begin to grow and be transformed into that from which it originated.
Whether we yet recognize it or not, it is possible to experience Perfect Love. There is a road that leads there, a narrow path which can take the true seeker to a place where hope becomes certainty, where faith is grounded in reality, and Perfect Love becomes a constant companion.
The Desperate Search
All composite things pass away. Strive for your own salvation with diligence.
When considering great people in history, many would say it would be difficult to find a more virtuous person than Siddhārtha Gautama, the man commonly referred to as Buddha. Born a prince around 563BC, he lived in luxury, ignorant of what lay beyond the confines of the palace walls until he was confronted by the human misery he witnessed on a trip into the world of ordinary people. Like Francis of Assisi hundreds of years later, he walked away from wealth in order to pursue spiritual perfection. Legend has it, that after studying Hinduism for years he became disillusioned with its teachings and while meditating under a fig tree for 49 days, became what Buddhists call 'enlightened'.
Buddha's teachings are encapsulated in what is called the Perfection of Wisdom. In a very real sense they call people to diligently control and eventually perfect the human nature. Buddha was raised as a Hindu. Hinduism, although difficult to define because of its nature to continually change, taught an idea of a Supreme Being who was in the form of three gods, Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma. Initially, in the Vedas, there are simply many gods, 330 million of them, incidentally the exact same number as the fallen angels who were expelled from heaven with Lucifer according to the Bible.
Buddha rejected the Hindu teaching about God. He believed that the belief in a Supreme Being was unhealthy, for perhaps similar reasons as the father of atheism Feuerbach. Feuerbach saw God as a 'wish-projection', a being, humans had created, who was everything we wished to be but could not. Buddha thought that if people believed in a completely perfect Supreme Being, then they may lose heart in their search for enlightenment as the goal was far too lofty and impossible to attain. Buddha denied the existence of a Creator and refused to ever endorse any ideas about the origin of life or creation. In doing so, he brought the concept of perfection from an infinite one to a purely finite one. Buddha brought perfection down to man's level.
The main difference between Francis of Assisi and Buddha in this respect is in the standard they used for perfection. Francis compared himself with the perfection of God as revealed in the Bible, whereas Buddha, having rejected God completely, had only himself or other humans as his standard. And yet, millions have the idea that Buddha reached perfection. Could the enlightened Buddha tell us how many drops of water were in the ocean, stars in the universe or even brain cells within his own body?
None of his writings suggest even the slightest hint of this possibility, so what was he referring to as the Perfection of Wisdom? In simple terms, Buddha was obsessed with the idea of alleviating suffering. He considered Nirvana, the Buddhist understanding of heaven, to be exactly that, a realm of existence devoid of suffering. Those who haven't reached this goal, the majority of people, are still bound to Samsara, the continuous cycle of rebirth through reincarnation. Salvation for Buddha is to be beyond suffering. The world has had Buddhism for 2,500 years, a lot of time to evaluate its effects. Today, the largest Buddhist population lives in China, with about 100 million adherents, followed by Thailand, Vietnam and Tibet.
Has Buddha's teaching done anything to alleviate suffering? Where are the 'enlightened' ones, or is 2,500 years of reincarnation not long enough to produce any perfect people? That is about 35 lifetimes. Is there still terrible suffering in the countries mentioned above? Sadly, whenever people reject God and His Laws, the value of human life becomes almost zero. Lenin, Stalin and the present-day Chinese government all have despicable records on human rights. Like Buddha, they answer to their own idea of values, having rejected a Supreme Being to whom they would have to answer to.
Buddha had fine intentions. When he walked out of his palace, secretly leaving his wife and young son, he was searching for a way to help himself and others. He tried to find a way to alleviate suffering, but perhaps he should have been asking the question of why suffering is here in the first place. Perhaps that question would have led him to find an answer to the origin of life. When a person rejects a Supreme Being, he then has no answer to the origin of life for he has decided there is no Creator. Such a man denies the empirical evidence of design all around him. How can a man give answers for life, when he cannot even give an answer to its origins?
Did Buddha find what he was seeking? If he was seeking a limited idea of human perfection, then perhaps he did. But we can be certain of this. He never found the Infinite Perfection of God, at least not in this life, for one can never find that which he doesn't seek, especially if he believes it does not exist. And yet, he maintained a belief in Nirvana, an idea incredibly similar to the Christian understanding of heaven. The man who taught his disciples that they could reach perfection on Earth also taught a distinction between the earthly and the heavenly. In doing so he as much as admitted that only through death can a person hope to enter perfection.
The last words he gave his disciples were to 'work diligently on their own salvation'. How? Through meditation mostly. In order to become what is called enlightened, one must devote his entire life to mediation and solely 'spiritual' actions. In reality, this means that someone else cooks for you, someone else plants your crops and harvests them, someone else provides shelter and clothing as you are too busy 'working out your salvation'. But his ideas and those of the ancient Hindu masters didn't stay in the lands of their origin.
New Age Religions
Both Buddhism and Hinduism have reached Western shores in various forms over the past eighty or so years. Many people, disillusioned with traditional Christianity, are seeking perfection in the mystic traditions that promise enlightenment through various avenues of self-development. Gurus clad in white robes with dark smiling eyes and charismatic personalities give off an air of peaceful satisfaction and to the person, whose life is filled with business meetings and traffic jams, the allure is seductive. In cultures where money is seen as the measure of success, the calm demeanor of the guru is like a breath of fresh air in the smog of the corporate rat race.
'The answer to that emptiness is finding self', being free from the bonds of religious oppression, free from the notion of sin which brings discontent. Such is the message. For a reasonable fee you can learn techniques which take your mind to levels of consciousness you never dreamed existed, and instead of the hyper talk-show radio you can listen to the soothing eerie sounds of eastern stringed music on your way to work.
New Age religions such as Transcendental Meditation are not at all new. Their roots go back thousands of years. The basic message is that we are god, we are creator, we are life itself. Something within the soul comes to life when we hear those words; a latent memory buried beneath a pile of cultural baggage sends a cry for help to our conscious mind and calls us to get back to our roots, even if it is only for twenty minutes twice a day. We meet a friend who is learning some pseudo meditative yoga technique which we can scarcely pronounce; she tells us how calm she feels, how 'back to nature' she is becoming, and next week we have grabbed our tracksuit pants and the introductory course fee and are heading for the 'enlightenment center'.
We sign up, get changed, sit down beside someone who looks as lost as we are, and stare at those dark eastern eyes and shining white teeth as our instructor proceeds to have us close our eyes and take the first steps on our journey to self-fulfillment. He speaks with that delightful eastern accent as his head moves from side to side, his bronzed athletic body completely unlike the potbellied souvenir we have of Buddha which sits on our office desk for a paper weight.
Two weeks later we are benefiting from the relaxation and time out and telling others to get involved. After a few months we learn about the next level. We buy the guru's latest book which we barely understand, we read The Prophet and scan the Bhagavad-Gita hoping beyond hope that there is more to this than the dull ache we have begun to experience in our buttocks from the thin cushions in the enlightenment center.
But there is more. There is that journey towards the light, that transcendental bliss which no one seems to be able to describe because they haven't quite reached it yet, but they know they are on the verge of a spiritual breakthrough. We hold our breath in anticipation, let out a sigh and sign up for the next step.
Self in the center, it feels good. No talk of vanity, pride and that horrid little word 'sin'. When we are called to celebrate self, told that self is the ultimate, self is the all in all, we can feel this feeling of freedom from that 'old time religion' which threatened hell for those things we felt compelled to do when no one was watching, those things that women never think about and men can't stop thinking about, and heaven for those who took daily doses of self-condemnation.
Level two opens the doors to level three. That imaginary door which we saw was slightly ajar, that door from which we saw the promise of perfection shining like a blinding light through a tiny crack, beckoning us to walk or levitate into god status. But there is that odd ceremony to undergo, that thing the guru said was just a cultural way of giving honor to the long gone teachers who so wonderfully left us this incredible knowledge of how to find perfection. We go home, break the piggy bank, collect a white handkerchief, rice, flowers or whatever we were asked to bring, and wonder what happened to the simple meditation thing we used to do twenty minutes twice a day.
I remember vividly my own experience of the higher level back in the early 1980s. Having done Transcendental Meditation (TM) for quite some time and learning of the next step which included levitation, one could be excused for thinking they were on the path to self-enlightenment and perfection. I was to become a Siddha, an old Sanskrit word for one who has found perfection. Twenty siddhi techniques were on offer for several thousand dollars, advanced mantras called sutras that promised to bring supernatural experience and open the path to enlightenment.
Thirty initiates were housed in an old hospital dormitory and I was given my own 'cell' for two weeks. We were under strict controls. No leaving, no meat, no fraternizing with the opposite sex and no reading the wrong literature. On our first day we learned just how 'scientific' this whole thing really was. TM had been promoted as a purely scientific technique, and those of us who wanted to remain naïve believed it. But after listening to readings from the ninth mandala of the Rig Veda for hours the ignorance began to dissolve.
We signed contracts and were given the first 'magic words' of the seers of old. Here we were waiting for strange words in a strange tongue, something akin to abracadabra, so our disappointment mounted when the instructor told us the first sutras were simple English words, 'invisibility, strength of an elephant, trachea', and the like. So we went to the 'flying room', a large space with foam mattresses covering the floor, covered our shoulders with meditation blankets and meditated on the words. Nothing happened. We remained visible and our strength did not increase. But there was much more to come; there was the 'flying technique', the one sutra which promised positive manifestations that we were heading for spiritual power and perfection.
The flying technique was much more mysterious than the others; a two-part sutra which sounded like it was from ancient times. "Relationship of body and Akasha, the lightness of cotton fiber".
We went down to the flying room with our new meditative chant and took positions around the walls. Max (not his real name) sat in the center of the room, a long-term TMer who looked like a hippy version of Jesus complete with beard and long hair. An equally skeptical friend and I sat and watched from the side wall.
Max sat for a while unmoving and then suddenly threw himself backwards, his feet coming dislodged from his yoga lotus position, his arms falling beside his body. Then he began to convulse violently, his back arching as if in pain, his eyes rolled into the back of his head, arms and legs thrashing about uncontrollably. My friend and I moved to his side, fearing he was epileptic and having a violent fit. We tried to hold him, but he had incredible strength. Two others joined us and the four of us managed to keep his body prone. We sent another of our party of sixteen men to find a doctor as we tried to see if Max's tongue had turned down his throat as he was making the most horrendous animal sounds.
A few minutes later the violence stopped abruptly. Max opened his eyes; he sat up as saliva dribbled into his beard, put his feet back into the lotus position, pushed us away and proceeded to bounce down the room like a human version of Kermit frog, all the while making strange grunting sounds. My friend and I retreated to our positions beside the wall and over the next few days watched nine of the others go through a similar process.
In the evenings, after our lintel soup and cauliflower cheese, we talked with those we had seen learning what is commonly called 'yogic flying'. The stories were similar. "The most ecstatic experience I have ever had", "like sex but a hundred times better", "a beautiful light filling my body", "no I have never had an epileptic fit".
My friend turned 'frog' the next day, but I was having reservations as were four other guys, and worse than this, a name I associated with religious bigotry kept coming into my mind when I tried to do my sutras. "Jesus". With only six days to go and five of us still not off the ground, we, earthbound 'siddhas', had a meeting. After flirting around the subject of what we might have in common for about an hour, I ventured a confession.
"Every time I sit eyes closed meditating on the flying technique, I see this golden light coming towards me in the center of my vision," I told them.
They nodded; they had seen it too.
"And then this name comes into my head and destroys the whole thing," I continued.
"What name?" one of the guys asked me.
I looked a little embarrassed at this point. Jesus Christ was not a popular topic at the dinner table, unless, of course, one was ripping Christianity to pieces.
"Jesus," I confessed.
Those four guys stared at me, but not as I had expected. I had expected to be branded as a traitor, a fool or a demented farm boy, but instead, each one confessed the very same thing. Enlightenment indeed! We called one of the teachers for an explanation, and he proceeded to tell us that our childhood horror stories about the fear of God, demonic possession, and the like, was bubbling up from a well of stress in the form of the name 'Jesus'. This was common in the western world he confided with that all-knowing look.
"So what do we do?" we asked.
"Just tell Him to #@% off," he told us with a hint of a smile on his face. "He doesn't exist in reality, but in your minds He is there."
I was 'flying', as were the others, within two days and within a week the guilt of what I had done was waning. The golden light came, it entered me, ecstatic feelings exploding and then fading away. I had punched a hole in the wall beside me in my 'fit of enlightenment', but at least I could get my backside a few inches off the ground without any help.
The day before we left to go home we had an all-male session in that room, about 80 siddhas of various levels of experience, all 'flying' in the same direction, jumping on top of each other, some in various states of sexual arousal, and the noise was like entering Noah's Ark ten minutes before the door closed and the rain started. We had roosters, dogs, pigs and horses, grunts and squeals and shrieks of laughter as the TM teachers bounced higher with the spiritual power generated by our numbers, their suits, ties and polished shoes safely stored in their cells waiting for their next public meeting.
For years I followed a religious regime designed to bring me to spiritual perfection. Yoga arsanas to prepare the body, twenty minutes of normal mediation, and then an hour or so of the siddhi techniques. This was twice a day every day, before breakfast and the evening meal. One was also expected to read passages from the Rig Veda every day.
What was the result?
Arrogance, pride and the illusion that we were on a higher spiritual level than the mob. Indeed, we were the enlightened ones bringing salvation to the world through our dedication. Such are the thought processes of those who place self in the center. We believed in ourselves and in the laws of karma, that law which states that a person must return to work out the evils they have committed in their previous lives. When we saw a person in a wheelchair, crippled for life, or a child born with a serious physical or mental defect, our compassion was nowhere to be found. Before TM I had often felt deep compassion for the less fortunate, but after years of practicing and living the laws of karma my compassion turned to disgust, believing that these people must have been extremely evil in previous lives.
In public we spoke of love and enlightenment; we used words like bliss and perfection, but the truth was that we were as empty as when we began, indeed, after being joined to the beings who promote self-centeredness, we were less human than before.
People cannot fly; they cannot lift themselves from the ground using meditation techniques. We had help, spiritual help, supernatural help from creatures not bound by the physical dimensions of humanity. Once they entered the body, their characteristics became ours in a limited sense, and their passion for self-worship became the center of our consciousness. The magical sutra for levitation, relationship of body and Akasha, lightness of cotton fiber, was the channel through which they entered. Akasha is an old word for cosmos, the lord of cosmos is the prince of demons, and connecting our bodies to him opened the consciousness to demonic infiltration and possession.
Self-deception is the heart of New Age religion because self seldom judges itself honestly. We are often told that the 'love of self is the greatest love of all'. If we are speaking of the need for confidence or acceptance amongst peers or the motivation to succeed in life, then yes, loving oneself is important. But if we are speaking of vanity and pride, of judging ourselves against others, of placing ourselves above and in the center, of believing that we are becoming as gods, then self-love is the greatest evil that can exist as it is the very enemy of humanity and God.
Many New Age religions teach that we are on the 'Wheel of Life', that once we were gods. We lose our divinity as the wheel turns and we start the process of thousands, millions of lifetimes back to where we were. Once we reach there again, the process begins again. The wheel has no purpose; its goal is to reach perfection, only to lose it again through endless repetitions.
Others teach that when we reach this elusive enlightenment we become part of the 'great essence of Brahma', the essence of perfection. Our individual identities are merged with the pure energy of perfection. It amazes me now, how I never saw the incredible contradictions in this teaching while I was a part of it. One is supposed to center on self in order to lose self, one is supposed to develop self in self-development programs in order to eventually have no self at all.
Images of Hindu sages and the Buddha conjure up ideas of humility, gentleness and selflessness, but in reality, these guys' families support them so that they can spend their days meditating, their entire lives evolve around themselves and no one else. Their wives and daughters serve so that they may be reborn as a man, for no woman can be enlightened. They take food to the monks who beg instead of working. Even the monk's act of brushing the ground as he walks and never eating meat are grounded in selfishness. If he kills an insect or eats the flesh of an animal he may bring bad karma upon himself, he may be forced to come back and live another life. All is centered on self.
Back to Nature
There is within most people a love of nature. That cabin in the mountains or beside the lake, that quiet getaway place where we long to feel at one with nature, for at least a while, is a longing for most of us. There is something about walking through a forest of tall trees, the sunshine filtering through the leaves, the smells of vegetation and fresh air, the sounds of birds and the whisper of the wind. For many it is the forest, for others, the mountains and for me, the ocean. I love to walk on a deserted beach, winter or summer, to smell the sea, listen to the constant roll of the waves or hear them crashing upon rocks.
'Back to nature' is not the same as naturalism. Naturalism is a philosophy which seeks to provide answers to life without references to anything supernatural. This philosophy has its roots in the writings of Aristotle and was made popular by Francis Bacon, Jean-Jacques Rousseau and others. The 'back to nature' philosophies of recent times are not necessarily connected to the theories of naturalism, for many who desire to get back to nature believe in supernatural forces connected to someone or something they call Mother Earth or Mother Nature. The recent movie Avatar is a case in point. This popular film contrasts the corporation plundering the mineral wealth of a planet, with the indigenous peoples whose lives are mystically, spiritually and physically tied to the planet itself.
The corporation tries to infiltrate the indigenous people using avatars, bodies created to house the self of the person, bodies made to look like the people of the planet. The indigenous people eventually win over the avatars through demonstrating the power of nature, oneness with the forces of life. This movie aptly portrays the belief that many have about this world or at least the feelings that they have towards nature. All over the world, in one degree or other, back to nature philosophies are becoming protests against corporate greed, against artificial foods, genetically modified vegetables, the killing of whales, destruction of rain forests, nuclear energy, and the like.
For most it is just common sense to look after the planet, but for an increasing number of people it is much more. Back-to-nature products are sold in most major cities, and beneath the common sense ideals of organic foods which are grown without pesticides is a mysterious belief in the 'positive energy' of eating that which is the gift of mother nature herself. Young people are exploring the allure of ancient pagan religions which hold a promise of getting back to a time when nature and man supposedly lived in harmony with each other. Stories of druids, the mysteries of Stonehenge, forest goddesses, white witches and herbalists combine with the natural instinct we have to be at one with creation.
On one particular walk on the beach I came across an interesting sight. It was a winter's night during the full moon with clear skies and a little frosty underfoot. Thinking I was alone in the beautiful silver light, I rounded a corner to find a group of middle-aged hippy types dancing in various stages of nakedness around a fire they had lit on the beach. Seeing me, they invited me to join them as they were almost finished whatever ritual they were performing. I found a spot on a washed up log and a discussion soon developed. They took it in turns to try and convince me that they were moving within the positive energy of the earth and somehow connecting with the cosmos.
I wondered if the marijuana being passed around might have had something to do with these feelings and listened as they told stories of their mystical experiences. They spoke of meridian lines of energy, of the druids and others. I asked them of their goals. None could give me a clear definition, but it was obvious that they hoped they were onto something and at the very least, the sense of freedom they enjoyed from throwing off their clothes and inhibitions could not be denied.
I left them to smoke and laugh and continued my walk. The story of Adam and Eve came to mind as I thought about these people and those like them. That primal couple, naked in paradise, walking in innocence in a garden of exquisite beauty and unspoiled perfection. Is there some latent memory deep within the human soul or even our DNA which cries out to get back to the garden? Do we seek a perfection once lost? Do we feel a primal urge to go to the forest where the taint of human defilement has not been, to throw off our clothes, to try and experience the freedom that Adam and Eve once knew or to skinny dip in a lake?
Maybe you have tried such a thing only to end up standing on a sharp stick in your bared feet or having to run for a towel because of the cold. The desire to get back to nature and perfection is there, but the grim reality soon returns and sends us home to coffee and a hamburger.
But that pull remains, for the desire to know perfection is strong within humanity. We book holidays to beautiful islands, pastel blue waters and waving palm trees, and then some idiot on a jet-ski reminds us that there is no escape from the reality of our modern world. We grab a pack, cans of beans and the bare essentials, determined to spend a weekend living off the land; we trek for hours through the forest to a log cabin, light a fire and enjoy the quiet, only to walk outside and see a plane leaving its tracer lines across the sky as it takes the corporate managers and their staff back to the city. After a few days of this we are longing for a hot shower, clean clothes and a good meal with all the trimmings.
The call to get back to our roots is strong. Would it not be strange if this were not so? After all, human beings have a natural connection with the Earth. According to Genesis, our bodies were formed from the 'dust of the ground', and when we die, we return to that same dust. From a physical perspective we are tied to the Earth, we are 'earthbound', but from a spiritual perspective we are made in God's image. We are earthbound creatures trying to become the image, to fill a void and leap across an invisible gulf, and yet something powerful frustrates and prevents us. It isn't just the reminders of modern life, the annoying things which break the spell we are trying to create, rather it is something more serious, something within that is empty. Adam and Eve were expelled from the garden and have left us a legacy, a barred gate which is more than natural, it is a spiritual separation from our roots, roots which are much more than the earth from which we came and to which we eventually return.
The Science/Creation War
From the 17th century onwards many people were questioning the teachings of the Bible and turning to forms of scientific reasoning for answers to life. The Roman Catholic's treatment of astronomers like Copernicus and Galileo only added insult to injury as people began to view the Church as superstitious and backward, an institution which refused to accept scientific facts. The 19th century heralded in Charles Darwin's evolution theories which gave the emerging sciences an alternative answer to the problem of the origins of life. With the atheistic and utopian philosophies of men like Hegel and Nietzsche and the general expectation that the entire world was moving towards perfection, evolution theory fitted the bill exactly.
The early twentieth century saw the emergence of the Fundamentalist movements within Christianity. In many ways these movements were trying to turn people back to the Scriptures for answers. However, unfortunately, they developed a very anti-scientific approach and started a war between scientists and creationists. They attacked scientists who suggested that the world was older than about 10,000 years and took an almost exclusively literal approach to the interpretation of Scripture. If the Bible said God made the world in 6 days, then for the Fundamentalist this had to be six days of 24 hours, despite the fact that the first chapter of Genesis says that the sun and moon, the two celestial bodies by which we measure our time, were not created until the 3rd day.
For almost a century this war has raged between the two and sadly it has been kept alive and taken out of proportions in countries like the USA, where Fundamentalists flourish, and in the former USSR, where the communist government wanted to destroy Christianity. Since the 1960's there has been a profound shift in thinking on both sides. Many Christian theologians and Biblical scholars, who recognize good science as the means by which we observe nature and make conclusions, have studied Scripture without Fundamentalist glasses covering their eyes and discovered that proven scientific facts are never incompatible with deep theological interpretation. Scientists also have made huge discoveries, especially within areas such as microbiology and astronomy as technology has improved. They have discovered undeniable evidence for design in nature. Indeed, the theories of Darwin regarding the origin of life have been shown to be completely false. Books such as Michael Denton's Evolution a Theory in Crisis and Michael Behe's Darwin's Black Box have offered powerful arguments and scientific data which refute Darwinian theory and call for evolutionary scientists to come out and tell the truth.
One would think the world would have welcomed such discoveries; however, the truth is that the science/creation war has been going for so long that truth really just got lost in the process and neither side is willing to compromise. Therefore, we have outdated science being taught in schools and anti-scientific theology preached from pulpits.
Some scientists, recognizing that the evidence for design cannot be refuted, began to formulate other theories without the need to use that hated word "God", or to put themselves into a position of having to admit that there may well be a personal intelligence out there who has certain demands.
The key word has become 'energy'. Energy is such a loose term that it can be used to fit almost anything. New Agers can grab onto it and speak of it as 'pure creative intelligence' which manifests itself in meridian lines, crystals, and the like, scientists can simply call it a form of self-realizing energetic matter, but the bottom line is that this energy is non-personal and therefore non-threatening in terms of things like sin, morality, etc. It's not uncommon to hear people speaking about the energy of the universe and how this creative energy is propelling us all towards perfection.
In Russia numerous laboratory tests have been done on dead bodies to determine what happens to the energy in the body. Does a body cease to contain energy the moment it dies? Does this Christian notion of a soul departing and leaving an empty life-less shell hold any truth? It is claimed that when a body dies, be it a cat, dog or human being, that there is an initial dissipation of energy, and then over a period of months another slower loss of energy as the matter changes form. This discovery has been heralded as proof positive that we are all simply manifestations of an intelligent mass of creative energy which is never increased or decreased, but which rather simply turns into something else.
Theories abound on the origins of this energy. The easy answer is simply that energy is infinite. It is obvious to all that the world is an active ever moving/changing energetic example of life. It is obvious that life or the components needed for life in some form or other exist in almost all matter. An animal eats grass, it excretes the used product, and yet that product which appears dead and smelly is the energy source to produce vibrant plants in the form of fertilizers. Is a dead tree really dead, or has it simply taken on a new form; is it rotting in order to become a new form of energy for other small plants and seeds which it has dropped around its roots throughout its tree life? Where did all this energy come from? Does anyone really care? Using words like infinite and eternal are deemed to be an answer to such pesky questions.
For many people who have that fundamental rebellion against submitting to a personal God the concept of self-realizing energy fits the bill perfectly. It's a form of 21st century evolution theory with enough mysticism in it to make it sound almost like a scientific religion.
Interestingly, in this case science is actually catching up with Christianity. For many centuries the idea of divine energies has been taught especially within Eastern Orthodox theology. In general and simple terms, Christianity differentiates between God's essence and His energy. God's essence is that which is completely independent of any material thing, uncreated, infinite and eternal. God's energies are manifested in everything He has created. To make it simple, we could explain it this way. God in His essence is a Trinity existing in three indivisible persons who have no beginning or end and are, therefore, not bound by time, dependent on matter or any other thing. In nature God's creative energy is demonstrated in all objects. A tree grows because the life-force or energy of God makes it grow. God has designed the tree to provide a different form of energy (fertilizer/compost) as the tree goes through a cycle.
The tree is only ever a manifestation of the creative energy of God and never in a real sense connected to the essence of God. Human beings, however, being made in the image of God, can experience both the energy of God which gives them life, and also the essence of God as His very uncreated nature communicates with them and can even come to dwell within them.
Science understands to a degree the creative energy of God, although, of course, the word "God" is unnecessary at that point, however, when it comes to trying to really explain the origins of energy, science is forced to add words like creative and self-realizing because that fundamental truth of incredible design will just not go away. However, to the person who is broad-minded enough to at least accept that this self-realizing energy may have a personality, energy as a term is not enough because energy without a personal, intelligent, self-aware creativity would never manifest itself in art, beauty, love, etc. In order to give even a primitive explanation for intelligent design, we need to speak of a designer and are, therefore, forced to admit that a designer must be aware of Himself and incredibly creative to have designed a universe so infinitely complex as the one in which we exist.
If we insist on creating God in our own image or trying to force Him into the box of our limited imaginations, we will only succeed in denying who and what we are and what we can become.
As a philosophy, atheism stands on the very pinnacle of human arrogance. In terms of antiquity, modern atheism is merely a babe, being only about 200 years old. Born in the Age of Reason, a time when humanity was pitting science against superstition, it completely divorces itself from that which it was created for. Its father, Ludwig Feuerbach, studied philosophy under Hegel. He attacked Protestant Christianity, especially the theology of a man called Friedrich Schleiermacher who insisted that the essence of Christianity was a 'feeling of absolute dependency on God'. Feuerbach turned this idea on its head. For Feuerbach, humanity had created an ideal of perfection outside of itself, projected the desire for perfection onto an imaginary being and called it 'God'. This he termed 'wish projection'. God, for Feuerbach, was a projection of man's own nature, and for man to reach his destiny God must be taken out of the mind and out of the way.
The obvious question that one would want to put to Feuerbach is simply this. "If there is no God, no Creator, then how can destiny exist for destiny is grounded in the idea of purpose?" Without an intelligent designer existence can have no purpose at all!
Atheism found the perfect partner in the theories of Charles Darwin. In his Origin of Species published in 1859, Darwin provided atheism with an answer to the origin of life, or so it appeared.
Atheism and Evolution, a marriage of the most contradictory ideas, ever to come out of the minds of mankind. Evolution theory claims that the universe was created by chance, a random collision of atoms and gases which started a process of life. No Creator, no designer, no purpose, it simply happened. Feuerbach insisted that the idea of God was standing in the way of human progress, of human destiny. Progress towards what, Mr. Feuerbach? "Perfection, of course". If we are products of random chance, then we have no destiny, no purpose and certainly no goal. To suggest such a thing is the ultimate contradiction for it posits the idea that the universe somehow has an intelligence of its own which drives it towards perfection, an intelligence created by random chance.
The fundamental arguments against such a ridiculous assumption are outlined and argued in Time for Truth: A Challenge to Skeptics which is freely available on the author's website.
The discoveries of scientists in the 18th and 19th centuries caused many to believe that humanity had entered an age of progress from which there could be no limits. The superstitious dogmas of the Medieval Ages were fast fading into oblivion, and man was marching forward into a utopian world. This 'brave new world' mentality simply threw God into a basket labeled obsolete, and man proclaimed himself his own creator. Not that man had started the process, no, in this system intelligence just happened, the atoms fused into life-forms, the life-forms mutated, and like magic, intelligence appeared. Like a half blind horse with side blinkers on its bridle, atheism galloped down the road of progress refusing to see the world around it, completely ignoring the Great Awakening which saw millions of people transformed by the Holy Spirit at the same time in history that infantile atheism was demanding that God did not exist.
Into the mix came Karl Marx, a German of Jewish descent. Marx, like Feuerbach before him, attacked Christianity as a 'pie in the sky' mentality. 'Religion is the poor man's opium' he claimed, a substitute for those who don't have and can't get what they want. Marx saw Christianity as a system which was forcing the poor to submit to the rich. For those countries which were still using a feudal system this criticism seemed valid, however, in finding an answer to the problem, he borrowed from the Bible itself. The first socialists were Christians. The book of Acts records that these transformed people sold land and possessions and shared their wealth, considering their property to belong to all in the family of God.
Marx borrowed this idea; however, he failed to ask himself the most important question. What force brought about this change? Why did people suddenly abandon selfishness and live for each other? One might argue that these early Christians believed that Christ would return within their own lifetimes, and if so, then saving for the future or investing for their children was unnecessary. There is an element of truth in this; however, this still doesn't answer the question concerning the catalyst for change. Marx was convinced that it was merely the power of religious ideas that introduced socialism into the 1st century and he believed that another active force could do the same. That force became known as communism.
Vladimir Lenin became the instrument by which Marx's ideals would be put into action. Communism became a force in itself. From a humanist point of view, communism is a wonderful idea and the perfect ideal for a world entering the age of progress towards utopia. The twentieth century was going to be the century that changed the world, and Lenin was to be the man to make it happen. There was only one problem. People! Communism started with a hiss and a roar, a cry for equality that sounded like a dream come true. Without a God to stand over and judge the proceedings, it seemed logical to simply eradicate any who stood in its way or threatened the cause, such as the intelligentsia, after all, in this system of thought human beings are only complex atomic forms, not sacred in any way. Many were murdered, especially the educated and creative and, of course, those with Christian views and convictions.
After Lenin, Stalin arrived on the scene, a man convinced that he was the 'superman' who was to come, the human messiah that the atheist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche prophesied would come into the world. On the same continent another man was reading Nietzsche and, like Stalin, was convinced that he was the one. The former became the leader of the communist party, the latter the fuehrer of Germany.
Within the eighty years that atheistic communism ruled in the Soviet Union, 60 million were slaughtered, people who were victims of a regime that used fear as a catalyst for change and death as a punishment for noncompliance. During this time two world wars witnessed the deaths of many more millions as the 'brave new world' marched on.
Atheism fundamentally denies humanity and contradicts everything it seeks to promote. Its active force, communism, presumed that people were evolving towards perfection; they just needed a little push in the right direction. By removing God it removed the basis by which humanity can judge any standard of morality, of right and wrong. Without God, the standards of right and wrong become the private domain of the individual. Stalin tried to be that individual, however, the natural outcome was corruption, the likes of which the world had never seen before, and today the former Soviet Union is on top of the most corrupt countries list, a legacy of atheistic rule. Man without God is man as his own judge. Man in the place of God has never produced utopia, for the heart of man is rooted in self.
Socialism worked in the 1st century because of the transforming work of the Holy Spirit in the very core nature of those who were 'born from above', born anew. This was the catalyst for change, not an ideal or religious idea, but a fundamental change in the human heart that overflowed into the reality of everyday life, an active force of love rather than fear. For all his good intentions, Marx left a legacy of bloodshed the likes of which had never been imagined. His idealist utopia was a living hell for the millions who suffered for his dream of perfection without the transforming power of the Perfect One.
Let's Go to the Movies
In the past decades the movie industry has entertained us with various genres including those which reveal our insatiable fixation with perfection. The Star Trek series is a classic example of this. The star ship Enterprise travels through various star systems encountering imaginary civilizations and making 'first contact'. Many of these civilizations are primitive manifestations of life barely started on the evolutionary process and theory which the series is based on. When these civilizations encounter beings such as the well developed humans from earth, they mistakenly consider them as gods. The 'prime directive' is therefore strictly adhered to, a rule of law which prohibits the Enterprise crew from interfering in the evolution of other, especially less evolved, beings. These primitive cultures are more often than not portrayed as superstitious, as having gods of weather and the like, a reminder to viewers that we are and have been like this as well.
But now and again the Enterprise comes into contact with beings far in advance of humans. These creatures are often portrayed as pure energy or light, of vast, if not infinite, intelligence, indeed, one might even say that they fit Feuerbach's idea of our wish-projections. The ideals of Buddhism, Hinduism, Evolution, Atheism, and back to nature, are all common themes throughout the series. All of these human ideals take various forms as the beings of these star systems go to war, form alliances and generally reflect the search for perfection we see on our own planet.
Staying with the genre of sci-fi, one only needs to watch the Star Wars series to see a similar idea. The 'force', an invisible energy of either good or evil can be harnessed and expressed within different individuals. The Jedi Knight, whether a humanoid or green goblin-creature, like Yoda, is a being that has joined himself/herself to the positive energies of life, a pseudo Buddhist idea. When the Jedi is killed in action, he becomes something akin to an angel or 'bodhisattva', a being who retains his individuality and helps others to find the truth and perfection.
And then we have the superhero mentality, the comic book characters that are brought to life on the screen. Superman comes from Krypton, a humanoid being, who has almost unlimited power on this planet, a force for good in the world fighting against evil. Superman's power comes from our yellow sun and he is portrayed as a kind of messiah figure, the one who can turn us away from evil and towards perfection.
But perhaps the most common genre is romance. Thousands of movies give us the idea that somewhere out there in the world is our perfect other half. I remember one movie where a guy meets a girl on Christmas Eve while shopping. He drops his glove in the store and has to return for it only to find his ideal woman at the counter. Thinking this is fate at work he asks for her phone number and she writes it on a one dollar bill and then spends the dollar. If they are destined to be together, then one day he will receive that dollar bill, fate will decide and they will live happily ever after.
Fate and destiny play predominant roles in such movies, but more often than not, something prevents the young lovers from being able to be together. In one such movie a man