Posted by: lecubiste | October 28, 2016

Addiction and Religion in the Modern Era

 

‘Desire is the cause of suffering,’ the Buddha said.  It is certainly one of its causes, along with poverty, ignorance, and egocentrism.

Addiction is a failure of the will. There is no rationale that supports addiction, but here’s the thing. Given that addiction is an irrational failure of the will giving into an impulsive and habitual desire, addiction comes in many forms. Chemical dependency can mean external drugs including opiates amphetamines, etc…; and the non-drug drugs such as sugar, salt, caffeine, and alcohol all of which fool the nervous system. There are also internal drugs such as endorphins released in the brain by exercise, sex, anger, and other habitual behaviors that equally cannot be justified by rational arguments. Too much of any good thing becomes a bad thing, and toxic behaviors are forms of addiction.

So what is the answer?  The Buddha gave a formula:  the eight-fold path. These eight areas of life can be developed as skill sets and adopted in healthy ways. Through the acceptance of the eight-fold path one can learn to moderate desire and balance behavior.

The eight-fold path caught on in China much more than in India, where Gautama lived.  This is because the Ba Gua, meaning the 8 directions, had been a basic tenet of Chinese culture for more than 3,000 years when Buddhism arrived in China. The I Ching or Book of Changes, the 64 times of life based on the Ba Gua, had been around for more than 500 years.

When a prophet, an ascended human being, comes along, a Gautama or Mohammed, it is the energy of that being that is most recognized at the time, but it is the structure of the philosophy that they leave behind that is remembered.  That is the genius of the prophets, that they develop a system that can outlive them to serve as a guide for future generations.

Examples:

  • Moses’ 10 Commandments

  • Ouspensky’s Psychology of the Possible Evolution of Man

  • The Seven Deadly Sins

  • Lao-Tse and the Tao Te Ching (Treatise on the Value of the Way)

  • Gautama’s 8-fold path

  • Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount

  • The Crest Jewel of Discrimination by Sankara

  • The Ba Gua of Ancient China

  • King Wen’s I Ching or Book of Changes

  • The Holy Trinity of Christianity

The origin systems of all religions came from founders who had risen to the level of divine revelation.  Scientists have a hard time with this concept. Why? Science was a development of the reason that arose as an alternative to superstition and ignorance. Unfortunately science has developed an unhealthy hubris about itself, an arrogant attitude that it explains everything, or if not, that it is the only division of human civilization capable of explaining things in nature and life.

Science has taken the point of view that those things that cannot be proven to exist by empirical means do not exist. Here science mistakenly rejects some basic inductive reasoning when it comes to religion. That which is universal to human civilizations both in time and geography, which religion is, probably indicates the existence of something real. A scientific analysis of the spiritual phenomena that have led to the creation of religions would have to begin with an open mind and the ability to use systems of analysis that can deal effectively with phenomena not in direct evidence.

That is because spiritual phenomena are apparent only to a small number of individuals. It is tempting and easy to reject the claims of this small number that there is a world beyond the one of the five senses. It was the modern spiritual savant Pandit Gopi Krishna of Kashmir who wrote extensively about the development of a new sense, a sixth sense if you will. He described its physiology drawing on ancient writings and his own personal experience.

Krishna wrote that the evolution of a sixth sense reveals a world beyond the other five.  He wanted to see the initiation of scientific research to examine his beliefs. He knew of this other world because he sensed it, as we might see a flower or a bee. This is the equivalent of sight to a blind man. It was what Carlos Castaneda wrote of as ‘seeing’ in his many books explaining the ancient religion of Mexico and Central America.

What are the characteristics of one who has activated this sixth sense?

  1. A quantum increase in mental power

  2. The sensing of and ability to obtain information from a previously unsensed world

  3. A feeling of energy flow from the sacrum to the cranium and around the body

  4. The sudden emergence of artistic and scientific abilities

  5. Intense feelings of both pleasure and despair, as seen in nearly all geniuses

Krishna wrote about this as “The biological basis of genius and religion.” Designing a research project that could establish the existence of this sixth sense is a challenge for sure.  Studying the lives of geniuses and religious founders can provide some empirical data for an analysis.

Deductive reasoning and deterministic models are preferred in science.  When Kepler observed patterns in the motion of planets, the laws of motion were not understood.  It took Isaac Newton to postulate a deterministic model, Newton’s Laws of Motion, to understand not just how the planets move but why. Einstein invented E=MC2 to describe a still more refined pattern of motion at high velocities and over great distances, and to quantify the equivalence and conversion of light and matter. Yet the cause of this motion has still not been formulated into laws that explain why.

Heisenberg developed his Principle of Uncertainty to suggest that no deterministic model of the atom could be arrived at.  He developed quantum mechanics, a purely probabilistic model that led to statistical thermodynamics, but not to the equivalent of Newton’s deterministic models and equations of his Laws of Motion. Einstein said of this, “God does not play dice with the Universe.” He spent his last years looking for the ‘Unified Field Theory’ and developed a series of equations but in the end admitted that he could not come up with it. I would suggest that the Unified Field Theory can and will only be derived after the human race proves itself worthy of such a deep understanding.  Otherwise sheer madness would result as the nations of the world competed to see who could develop a new superweapon first. A cursory look at the world’s current military situation clearly demonstrates this. Wars in Syria, Iraq, Africa, and trouble across Asia and elsewhere show that the human race is not ready for such knowledge.

The reason I explain this is that science has no problem with a purely statistical and probabilistic model of the world when it has a practical and materialistic use. No problem at all. If a similar approach to religion was taken, models could be developed that show the factors that lead to the founding of religions.  Factors of history, culture, and societies combined with genetics and the environmental conditioning of certain rare but nevertheless existent individuals can be shown to result in the emergence of Buddhism, Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and all the others. There would be laws that could predict when and where new religions would materialize. This can be combined with the physiology of geniuses and prophets as Krishna explained.

In the scientific domain religion would become the domain of sociology and anthropology without reducing it to the status of a mental problem. Controversy often squelches such research because those who believe in religion fear the loss of their followers if it was shown that all religions are essentially based on the same principles.  How could their theory of theological monopoly be supported if they had no special status in “The eyes of God.”

Thus we return to the recurrent theme of the modern world: How can we bring human civilization into the modern world? In economic and politics, the recurring nagging problem is: how to integrate societies and get cooperation – building bridges instead of walls.  The same is true of philosophies and religions. In the Middle East we see the clash inside Islam between Shiites and Sunnis. Today we see the Pope speaking to Lutherans, trying to heal the wounds of Christianity caused by the conflict between Catholicism and Protestantism.

These divisions exist in virtually all major religions. There are different kinds of Buddhism and Hinduism.  We see ancient conflicts between the three Abrahamic religions – Islam, Judaism, and Christianity.  We see Islam and Hinduism at conflict in Kashmir, again. In China religion is virtually banned while Buddhism survives in small isolated enclaves. Tibet is under special Chinese military rule.

Is it possible that all this is simply militaristic nationalism alloyed with local religion, operating under tribal allegiance to a people and a national boundary?  In other words, perhaps religion is like gravity, a natural aspect of the world that can be understood by science. Perhaps religion is as natural to societies as rain is to the jungle. All religions in this view are just different versions of the same phenomenon in human societies.

This approach will eventually prevail if societies are given a chance to weigh all this in the light of reason. Perhaps Jesus and Gautama are the same as Moses and Mohammed, the same as Sankaracharya and Zoroaster, Socrates and Quetzalcoatl, all prophets. They come and go leaving in their wake religions and philosophies.

In our modern time the isolationist and egocentric view that any of our societies is somehow unique and a special case in the eyes of the Great Spirit cannot survive. Removing this obstacle from relations between civilizations on the world today would free us to embrace our human condition, and not to condemn so many of our fellow humans. One can hope and try.

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