Wednesday, July 22, 2009

The Blazing, Uproaring Church of This Red-Hot Minute

My children, welcome to the only church you need and the only Church there is... the Church that preaches no doctrine, asks no faith, yet offers boundless saving grace, and sooner-- not later. Welcome to the Church you never leave because it's all around you all the time and behind your eyelids when you drop off and snooze in the pews.

This minute! This is all you have and all the time there'll ever ever be-- to figure things out, touch the sky, find yourself. Can't do it tomorrow-- tomorrow never comes. Yesterday's gone and you might not be here next week. Now is the time I'll serve the Lord, the only time, the only only any of us has... my hind end. That big bang of life blowing up right under your nose is as close as you get to Eden. End of the world? Don't hold your breath.

So come on into the Church. The door stands open, so open up this moment. Greet it, see it as it is: alive. Alive with you, a creation-partner with God by your very attempt to open your eyes and join with Now. She's looking back at you, She wants to lovingly strike you, drag you sputtering across bumpy sensation, rough circumstance until you spark to life, come ablaze in incandescence entrained.

Don't miss the train but if you do another's coming. Every moment, every instant this Church renews anew. This second in every direction is Her: "Everything is Your desire," the bard sang to the listening Cosmos. All of it is your Beloved, all of it, now, even your distraction, your whim and urge, all of it holy, all of it firelight. Join Her, enter Her, be Her, be Her now, blaze and roar out by drawing Her All into your heart, by greeting Her, praying the prayer of faith: This is You, I am Yours.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Kalibhakta Sutra, Part Two

Verse 2:
Evolution happens.


Here the chaos of Verse 1 is companioned with order. It is important to understand, however, that "order" here little resembles its Euclidean or Cartesian counterparts-- it is not a state of perfection or freedom from irregularity, but rather a set of interconnected, self-similar patterns that form part of a larger, cosmic pattern. Though a picture of the entire universe must ever be elusive, Kalibhakta reminds us in an undated journal entry that, like the Mandelbrot Set with its interconnected, infinitely iterated mini-versions of itself, the macrocosm also mirrors itself endlessly. In a moment of intellectual crisis, he is said to have asked his Holy Guardian Angel if there could be such a thing as an ultimate pattern or tendency in the universe, to which She replied "Yes. Evolution." Of course "evolution" is understood as distinct from "progress."

Again we find it valuable to consult Monier-Williams. We are reminded that the very name of the Deity in Sanskrit, Brahman, means "'growth,' 'expansion,' 'evolution.'" The choice of the adjectival vakva ("winding about, rolling, bubbling") underscores the sense here of evolution as a nonlinear process and may be a product of Kalibhakta’s fascination with dissipative structures and the concept of "maximum entropy production," in which seeming disorder is synonymous with extravagant creativity and diversity. Vakva is also used in the Rg Veda to describe the divine libation Soma. Soma, like evolution itself, represents a bridge between matter and spirit. Kalibhaktian exegesis tends to interpret Soma not as a drug but as the upward flow of shakti within the devotee as he or she evolves in consciousness to become one with God.

One must remember that Kalibhakta's translations tend toward the pithy and are at times burdened with the colloquial. This verse might be more thoroughly translated as "The nature of Godhead is a nonlinear evolutionary unfolding which is mirrored throughout and indistinguishable from the cosmos."

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Excellent Interview with Terry Eagleton

...the most trenchant critic of the "new atheists." Laurie Taylor of the New Humanist hit this one out of the park.

Eagleton's new book has been slow going for me, as I am thoroughly in summer mode and enjoying fare like The Urban Hermit and Wikipedia entries on dead pop stars... but I love some of what Eagleton has to say and I love the way he says it. The situation's somewhat analogous to the rhetorical pickle a lot of lefties get into when they try to criticize the Right: so many liberals (and non-stupid religious people) buy so thoroughly into ideals of tolerance and compassion that they can't break the shit down and mount a decent vituperative assault. Those guys got cred --the unspoken fear goes-- they got family values, they got Einstein... and who wants to knock kids and cookouts, or The Same Empiricism That Brought You MRIs and Artificial Hearts (as Ditchkins' epigones weirdly chant)?

Nothing wrong with tolerance and compassion, but if you can't sum up why they're wrong and you're right then there's not much point taking issue with anyone, is there? Here's an example of Eagleton's style, quoted by Taylor: "Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is The Book of British Birds and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology." Eagleton exposes many of the lacunae, invalid assumptions, contradictions, and plain old non sequiturs in self-proclaimed rationalist thought, and does so with admirable wit and style.

The interview takes a turn that, for me anyway, raises the ghost of Stephen Jay Gould. When someone like Eagleton accuses a "new atheist" of near-total ignorance of religion, the latter tends to respond, with some justification and as Richard Dawkins does here, that "I [don't] think theology is a subject at all.... it is like someone saying they don't believe in fairies and then being asked how they know if they haven't studied fairy-ology." Fine, but-- with this desire to be both in the fray and above it, haven't we journeyed once again to the land of non-overlapping magisteria? Not where Ditchkins wants to be, as it makes it hard to preach to the savages... and if you won't stoop to grab the other dude's gauntlet then you end up, like Quixote, warring with imagined foes.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

I Could Take Beliefnet More Seriously If...

...well, the picture says it all.

I tried reading it many times but it always seemed to swirl down to celebrity gossip, myriad riffs on the Law of Attraction, and canned "debates" (doctrinal hairsplitting ... other people's sex lives...) ...

...though damn it if today, as I surfed the site for the first time in about a year, there wasn't a story in the Hinduism section about my beautiful Mother Kali--rare for this site and as if put there to say "get off your high horse, son, there's people needs this stuff." The article's author, another avatar of Attraction, makes the very valid point that to invoke Kali is to say, in effect (I'll use his wording), "I want true spiritual advancement by the most powerful and direct route, the consequences to my ego notwithstanding." You're standing in the storm, holding up the big metal rod, asking for a boost... about the hear the resounding cosmic Yes.

So thank you, Mother, for nudging me off the horse (thankfully not with lightning this time), but is it still OK if I ask--why all the celebri-porn on a site that's meant to "help people ... find, and walk, a spiritual path that will bring comfort, hope, clarity, strength, and happiness"? Do "the hidden health secrets of lemons" do any of that? How about Beliefnet's "Hot Topics" for Sunday, June 28, 2009: Michael Jackson * Mark Sanford Affair * Farrah Fawcett * Jon and Kate...? How much hope and clarity am I going to get from that freak show? I get the concept of ministering to the spiritually needy in their present, broken state, blah blah blah and yeah, Christ was down there in the dives with the publicans and sinners... but I bet he wasn't urging them to get all stalkerishly obsessed with Caesars and gladiators.

It's always hard for me to find the line between legitimately having (not to mention voicing) an opinion or falling over into either hushed-up nudnikism or blociferous blowhardism. I have the ex-fundamentalist's horror of sermonizing, the rhetorician's fondness for the joust--the high horse--and the Vedantin's conviction that the words don't matter, that all paths lead to God, and that, in the words of Sriharsha, "all propositions can be made to appear ridiculous." I therefore often want to smite, yet just as often fret that smiting is for the unevolved, those falling down on the spiritual job. Ever since the Coming of my Guardian Angel, the biggest bolt of vidyut-shakti ever sent my way, I've felt newly and strangely emboldened to speak my mind, yet I've never lost that sense that ... whatever stupid crap people might be into, it's workin' for them, and if it ain't workin' then too bad because it ain't my job to save anyone.

And... OK, great. Now I'm reading "My Childhood, My Sabbath, My Freedom" by Michael Jackson, writ exclusively for Beliefnet in 2000, and I'm overflowing with compassion for the f***head. Thanks, Kali.

And now [I'm not saying any of this for rhetorical effect, this is really happening!!!] I'm looking at the "Crunchy Con" column, long in my mind a locus of idiocy, and I'm agreeing (mostly) with it!!! And the Con is waxing eloquent about the Himalayan challenge of loving deeply vs. the dimwit laziness of letting the small self drive the bus-- in one guise or other, the very seesaw on which we all totter in a world of maya and bling.

I'm too harried to look it up, but both Crowley and Ramakrishna talked about a state in which the second you step off the path, God socks you one upside the head. Instant karma... I kind of hope I'm not in that state-- I'm not on the shores of the abyss yet... but Kali is dealing with me on this whole spiritual pride thing, again, and I thank Her. She'll do it again (and again) until I straighten up and fly right. But--in true tantrick fashion--I want it both ways. I want to fondle and sniff that Martha Stewart Italian Cream Cake, and gobble it all up, too. I want to be Shiva, I guess--Her lover, Her creation, Her ecstatic interlocutor-- I want a hand to wield the trident, a hand with which to bless, a hand to touch the Now like Raphael's Aristotle and another hand to point to the sky like Plato. I guess I do have all these, to the extent that I allow myself to, to the extent that I perceive each moment and each irritating person not as fitting into some category but as divine... as Her... or if that's too hard, as a wave in the storm of Her unfolding, as a filigree of glorious maya embodying Her beauty, Her supreme evolutionary energy by which even "Religious Kitsch" may vault us to heaven.