Overcoming the Impasse of Western Philosophy, and the Morass of Insanity Which Is Nihilism
Imagine if someone came to you, and said,
“I am a great philosopher! In fact, I am the greatest of philosophers! I say in one line, what others say in an entire book! And what they do not say in a book!
And I will pass on to you, the secret of my philosophy. Listen carefully.
First, you must bash your head against a brick wall, as often as possible, and ideally all day long, every day. Then, you must walk down the road, and where you see a hole in the road ahead, you must firmly close your eyes, and walk straight into that hole. Then, once you have walked into the hole in the road, you must fall down, complain a long while, moan, groan, and really take in your suffering - wallow in it, in fact; perhaps call out for help, knowing full well that no one will help you, and no one can help you. Then, when you have done that for a long while, day in and day out, and truly immersed yourself in the filth of that hole, wallowing in it daily, then, you at last lift yourself up, and declare to the world, loudly, and proudly, for all to hear:
“I am the übermensch!”
“I AM the super-man.”
Thus spoke Zarathustra. And you would rightly declare, this man is utterly mad. He is completely insane. And you would, of course, be right. That is Nietzsche.
After the mind-numbing and soul-crushing mechanistic revolution of the 1600s, courtesy of Bacon, Newton, Locke and Descartes, which William Blake appropriately termed “Newton’s sleep”, and which put a terminal end to any hopes for sustaining the Renaissance, and which has erroneously been called “the scientific Revolution”, the next major turn down a deadly wrong direction, began with Nietzsche, and the nihilism which he further cemented in the Western mind. We had best now retrace our steps, and correct our errors.
The next time someone says to you, "All truth is socially constructed", or uses the phrase "beyond good and evil" - and without any thoughtful editorial remarks, to the effect that this is pure rubbish; just reply to them by saying, kindly, "Nietzsche is dead. Let's let nihilism and post-modernism die along with him - as they should."
Nietzsche claimed to practice “philosophy with a hammer”. It seems fitting, therefore, to dispose of his delusional rubbish - which is paraded among “intellectuals” as sophisticated “philosophy” - with a broadsword.
Or a flaming broadsword, perhaps….
Manjushri, the Buddha of Infinite Wisdom, holding a flaming sword in his right hand,
with which to cut through all illusions, and a lotus flower stem in his left, upon whose
blossom sits the Prajnaparamita Sutra, The Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom
Nietzsche’s “philosophy” was, and is, Sophistic. It is hardly sophisticated. It is the finger-paintings of a deranged pre-schooler.
Nietzsche was insane his whole life, and not just at the end of it - or at least, he was insane from before the time he first set pen to paper.
Nietzsche said he set out to make a, “transvaluation of all values” - that sounds impressive, until you examine it, and find it is an utterly hollow statement, and a statement of pseudo-intellectual psychobabble, like the rest of his “philosophy”.
Nietzsche said he wanted to demolish all values, and construct new values in their place. Aside from being egomaniacal, and simply delusional, which he was, he utterly failed in that task.
Nietzsche was conscious that if he did demolish all values, at least in his own mind, but did not construct a new set of values to replace the ones he had demolished, then he would fall into nihilism. But that is exactly what he did.
One could read Nietzsche as trying to rescue Western civilization from the nihilism it had already fallen into - a generous view, that would be, and not an incorrect one; nor one that conflicts with the view of Nietzsche which I have already presented.
Nietzsche’s answer to the problem of modern Western civilization, having fallen into nihilism, was to go further, and more fully, totally and completely, into nihilism. Of course, this only makes sense if you are, already, quite stark raving mad.
What is the legacy of Nietzsche, setting aside the difficult if not impossible question of what the author intended to do - which ultimately is irrelevant in any case, at least from a standpoint of the history of philosophy, or from the perspective of sociology; interesting but irrelevant biographies aside?
The legacy of Nietzsche was to further cement - and cement is the best possible term - the nihilism of modern “civilization” in the minds of the people, or at least, among the “educated” and the “intellectuals”. To say this was tragic, and disastrous, would be to understate the facts.
Why might someone view Nietzsche’s “philosophy” as a pile of rancid dog shit, aside from its nihilism? Let me see…
Nietzsche hated anarchy, and he also despised democracy - making him, by default, an elitist and an authoritarian, as well as a confirmed narcissist and egoist.
Nietzsche was blatantly sexist and misogynist.
Nietzsche was a war-monger, and believed that war was good for human society.
Nietzsche was rabidly anti-religious, and anti-spiritual, as well as rabidly anti-Christian.
Nietzsche viewed morality, or even the holding of any values, as silly nonsense to be disposed of.
Nietzsche made war, above all, on compassion, proclaiming it a weakness and a delusion - thus confirming more clearly by this, than by anything else, that he was a nihilist, and was utterly insane.
We could read Nietzsche as a response to Emerson, whose philosophy he loved, admired and adored - but Nietzsche added nothing to Emerson, other than his own peculiar brand of nihilistic madness. Therefore, we should just read Emerson, and skip Nietzsche altogether.
emerson quote, in an artful image: what lies within us
Yes, you should trust yourself; respect yourself; listen to your own inner voice, and do not be afraid to follow your own path, even if it sometimes means that you must walk for a time alone. Your greatness lies within you, and it will be unfurled and uncloaked, when you do this, and not when you simply imitate another, or look outside of yourself for your own true path. Emerson conveyed all of this - as did Thoreau, and as did Jesus, the Buddha and Lao Tzu; and again, Nietzsche added only madness and delusion, nothing more.
The only thing Nietzsche accomplished, was to muddy the waters, to sow confusion, and to profoundly mislead the masses of “intellectuals”, who were foolish enough to take him seriously.
We could read Nietzsche as trying to overcome the world-rejecting tendencies of Christianity and Platonism - and that would be accurate; but his cure was more poisonous than the original malady itself.
Plato was viewed by Nietzsche as having presented a world-rejecting idealism - a misreading, according to Plotinus, who understood far more than the undermensch could ever have imagined.
Plotinus gives us the correct reading of Plato, which was far from a world-rejecting dualism, or idealism. What we see of Plato’s philosophy, as Plotinus explicates, is a non-dualism, which recognizes all things as fundamentally one, and fundamentally sacred. The world is far from rejected - it is revealed as beatitude, at least, when the veils of illusion are lifted, or pierced. So Nietzsche’s view of Platonism was delusional, to begin with, or radically mistaken, if you want to be polite about it.
Nietzsche likewise viewed Christianity (which he felt was Platonism for the masses - which was another gross misreading) as an intrinsically world-rejecting dualism, or a world-rejecting idealism, if one prefers to phrase it that way, though they amount to the same thing - and again, Nietzsche was radically mistaken and confused.
If Nietzsche was a better scholar, or at serious scholar at all, he would have seen very quickly, if he bothered to study or examine Christianity, in the slightest depth or seriousness at all, that the world-rejecting dualism or idealism which Nietzsche wrongly accused Christianity of being, was a taint and a distortion that originated with Augustine’s jaundiced “philosophy”, having been accepted by the church as official dogma and canon. The world-rejecting idealism, or better said, the world-rejecting dualism, which Nietzsche so hated, was inflicted on a hapless “Christian” church, and taken up as gospel, as official doctrine, dogma and creed, from a delusional and myopic, deeply neurotic bishop of Hippo, by the name of Augustine - and had nothing whatsoever to do with the teachings of Jesus.
If you want to decry Christianity, as a set of religious institutions, because they have had a nearly 2,000 year history of tending strongly towards a world-rejecting dualism, that is fine - though it would be a tragic throwing of the baby out with the bathwater. But if you want to say that a world-rejecting dualism is intrinsic to Christianity, as Nietzsche claimed, then we would have to say that your views are founded upon sheer ignorance, and you are simply wrong.
To the point: The disciples came to Jesus one day, and asked when the Kingdom of Heaven would come. Jesus replied that it will not come by waiting for it.
Let that sink in.
Jesus flatly denied that the Kingdom of Heaven is something that you must wait for, or something that will arrive in the future, or which we will attain in the future, either in this life or in the next. Rather, Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is within you.”
Sounds a lot like what Nietzsche was trying to get to, in different words, with his super-man complex - but his methods were delusional, and therefore, he could never arrive, nor even know where or how to begin.
Which then makes sense of the fact that Nietzsche essentially created a religion out of nihilism: which is, the worship of being utterly lost.
Jesus further said, in the Gospel of Thomas - one of the more than twenty gospels which the Roman Emperor Constantine took it upon himself, as self-appointed editor under God, to remove from the official canonical scriptures, but one which is every bit as legitimate as the official emperor-sponsored gospels of Mathew, Mark, Luke and John:
“The kingdom of heaven is within you.”
“The kingdom of heaven is spread out upon the Earth, and men see it not.”
“I took my stand in the midst of humanity, and I wept for them, for they came into the world blind, and they seek to leave the world blind.”
“The priests are like dogs who lay in the manger, for they do not eat, and they do not let the cattle eat.”
“Let those with ears hear. Let those with eyes see.”
“If you drink from my mouth, you shall become as I am.” (Echoing, “I am the vine, you are the fruit.” …..“Oh ye of little faith….” “You shall do all these things and more.”)
“When you make the two into one, the above and the below, the male and the female, then you shall see.”
When we read the complete, unedited gospels, the gospels untouched by an arrogant and hubris-filled emperor, then the passage which reads, “The kingdom of heaven is within you”, takes on its clear and fuller meaning. There is no dualism here. There is only beatitude - for those who have eyes to see, and ears to hear.
And we have further confirmation of the heart of Christianity, from the archetypal Christian mystics, Hildegard of Bingen, St. Francis, and Meister Eckhart, who said:
“There is nothing that I can point to that is not God. God is within me, and God is all around me.”
Far from a world-rejecting dualism or idealism, all of these currents, which are the deepest and most authentic currents of Christianity, point to non-dualism - an echoing of the Perennial Philosophy, or Perennial Wisdom, which the world’s greatest scholar of mythology, Joseph Campbell, called the mono-myth.
Nietzsche, in short, mistook the shadow of Christianity, and indeed all religion, for the essence. He was attacking shadows only, because, like the slaves in Plato’s parable of the cave, shadows were all that he could see.
In the land of the blind, a pompous and strutting blind man can be pronounced a great philosopher, and millions of people will believe it is so.
Indeed, we have little else in Western philosophy, save for a few glorious exceptions to the rule.
Nietzsche also paraded an image of Christianity, and of the moral or spiritual person generally, as wimps, as weaklings, as being in bondage to slave mentality, as he called it. Well, that may be entirely true, or largely true, at least with regards to a great many Christians, and with regards to a majority of the larger human populace, generally. I would say there is some definite truth to that. As TS Eliot said, "We are the hollow men, we are the stuffed men". But it would be wrong to believe that this weakness stems from Christianity, from morality, from virtue, from having values, or from spirituality. That weakness has other roots - mainly, in the human weakness of wanting to take the easy route, which, it is perceived, is to meekly conform, to obey authority, and to stick with the herd at all costs - even at the cost of our conscience, our virtue, our dignity, our freedom, or our very soul. But that is not the fault of Christianity, or morality, or virtue, or having values, or being spiritual - in fact, where there is great weakness, cowardice, or slave mentality, as Nietzsche called it, that is precisely where Christianity, morality, virtues, values, and spirituality, are lacking. It is their lack, not their presence, which creates this weakness, which Nietzsche so despises.
Moreover, Nietzsche never met Dietrich Bonhoeffer, or Martin Luther King Jr., or Gandhi. He never met the priests who practice liberation theology, who put their lives on the line to defend others selflessly, in repeated acts of courage and inner strength which would make Nietzsche blush, with shame and hypocrisy.
And what of Jesus? Jesus was, as it is said, "as meek as a lamb", and as gentle as a lamb. But Jesus also spoke the truth fearlessly, and to anyone, with utter disregard for the authorities of the time, both secular and religious. And it was Jesus who drove the money-changers from the temple - not with meek and gentle words, and a limp piece of leaf lettuce, but with a whip! Call that cowardice, slave mentality, or weakness, if you dare! And in response, we would have to say, you are either a liar, or else you are delusional.
Jesus driving the money-changers from the temple, with a whip
We should also counter and dispel nihilism directly, and not only as it pertains to the delusional scribblings of one sad figure of Western philosophy, who tragically came to be a dominant influence in modern “civilization”, over the past, equally tragic, century.
Nietzsche takes his place among the great deceivers and self-deceiving fools, posing as great souls and great minds: along with Machiavelli, Hobbes, Spencer...the list is very long. That is the only notoriety truly befitting to Nietzsche, in any sensible or reasonable estimation or analysis. He represents one of our great, tragic mistakes.
The fact that Nietzsche ever became influential at all, makes me think of a couple of lines from Thoreau:
"The greater part of what my neighbours call good I believe in my soul to be bad, and if I repent of anything, it is very likely to be my good behaviour. What demon possessed me that I behaved so well?"
"When I observe the ruts in a road, I am compelled to think, how much deeper are the ruts in the mind."
Nihilism is a mental rut, a delusion, a rotting bog, a poisonous sewer, a straight-jacket, a sarcophagus, a prison, a self-evisceration, a whitewashed tomb for the walking dead - and Nietzsche and the post-modernists are its chief proponents. Therefore, they should all be abandoned - at least, by any person who has any remaining common sense, or any functioning glimmer of brain activity left alive.
(I said that.)
If we could go back and undo our errors, and avoid some key missteps, we would renounce and reject Cartesian dualism, the Newtonian mechanistic worldview, Plato’s delusional political theory of philosopher kings, Machiavelli’s rationalizations of power lust and amoral ruthlessness, Hobbes’ delusional rationalizations of elitism, statism, authoritarianism and excessively centralized power, Spencer’s delusional rationalizations of callousness and greed, by way of a self-serving misreading of Darwin, leading to the unofficial but nevertheless reigning orthodoxy among the ruling class, of social Darwinism; the decision to launch the first Crusade, then the Inquisition, then the colonizing projects, and the racism and ethnocentrism and imperialism which these actions generated and reified; the disastrous devaluation and desacralization of the feminine; the acceptance of the dualistic delusion as a valid mode of perception or world view, above all; the acceptance of the rise of hierarchy; the Judeo-Christian tradition’s early error of over-emphasizing doctrine and the written word; a radical misinterpretation of the Book of Genesis, based upon a crude and frankly infantile literalism; Augustine’s despicably jaundiced view of nature and humanity; and Nietzsche’s nudge - really a grand shove - in the direction of nihilism. But we cannot go back into the past to retrace our steps. The damage has already been done. We cannot go back and undo our missteps, or the incalculable damage they have caused. But we can go forward, and go forward on a better foot, knowing, and realizing fully, how disastrous these errors have been, and jettisoning the thinking that created them, once and or all.
The fall into nihilism is one of the biggest mistakes in human history - and it happened in the “leading”, industrialized, Global North, in modern Western “civilization”, first; then spread like a great plague around the globe, infecting and poisoning the people’s minds, wherever it went.
Materialism, consumerism and commodification are toothless beasts, without a culture and a psychology of nihilism to drive them. Get to the root. Do not be content to merely apply bandages, when the hemorrhaging is internal, and goes much deeper.
We must first go back to first principles, in order to remedy our errors - including the error of nihilism, which is one of the worst possible.
We know now, from modern quantum physics, that the Perennial Philosophy, or the Perennial Wisdom, is not only the mono-myth of all traditional cultures, up until the modern era began, and the core essence of all of the world’s major religions - Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, Taoism, and traditional indigenous cultures around the world; but also, that the central view of the Perennial Philosophy is correct: all things are interdependent; all things are interconnected; and all things, in truth, share an underlying unity, and are fundamentally one.
“We must stop talking about the particle and the field. The field is everything.”
- Albert Einstein
We know now - although only the greatest of scientists and scholars have come to terms with it, and have shifted their perspective in accord with it - that subatomic “particles” are not, in fact, particles, but are, more accurately described, concentrations of energy, vibrating in a field; and that the “particle” and the field cannot be considered two separate things, but are seamlessly united - just as, distinct waves on the ocean can be recognized, but cannot be separated or divided from the ocean, or from the water which makes up the ocean, except in an abstraction which has no valid basis in reality: and that the field which is the “particle” is also inseparable from the larger field, which is itself commensurate with the entire cosmos; and that the observer is inseparable from the observed; and consciousness, or mind, cannot, likewise, be separated or divided from “matter”, other than by an abstraction, which again, has no valid basis in reality.
In short, we know now, from quantum physics, that mind and body, subject and object, self and other, consciousness and matter, the part and the whole, the individual and the cosmos, are not separate or divided, and can never be separated or divided - except by an abstraction, an invalid cognition, an erroneous inference, a thought in the mind, which is itself without any valid basis in reality.
To put it more succinctly, we can quote Schrödinger, the god-father of quantum mathematics, and Einstein, the greatest scientist of the past 100 years:
“The number of minds in the universe is one.”
“The perception of a division between subject and object is a kind of optical delusion.”
Given the weight of ethnological and anthropological evidence, from the ubiquitousness and pervasiveness of the Perennial Philosophy, as Joseph Campbell, Holgar Kalweit, Liebniz and Aldous Huxley have demonstrated and pointed out; and given the startling conclusions of modern physics, which shatter completely the Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm of mechanistic, dualistic materialism: we can say with reasonable confidence, putting the case in the mildest understatement possible, that Being and Mind, are not two, but one; and while beings, things, phenomena and minds appear to be many, the impression is a kind of illusion, when in reality, there is an underlying interconnectedness, interdependence, and a fundamental unity of being and mind.
In short, modern physics - for those, at least, who are not blinded by their dogmatic ideology and metaphysical assumptions of mechanistic, dualistic materialism - confirms the non-dual view, which is the heart of the Perennial Philosophy, echoed by all the sages, both East and West.
As the Heart of the Perfection of Wisdom Sutra states,
“Form is emptiness; emptiness is form.
Emptiness is not other than form; form is not other than emptiness.”
The attempts to reduce reality to a one-sided view of idealism, by denying the reality of extension, form, substance, or the world as we know it; or to reduce reality to an equally one-sided materialist reductionism; is to fall to one extreme view or the other - both of which are delusions. The truth lies in the middle way, between the extremes. The truth is non-duality.
That is the epistemological and ontological examination of the nature of being and mind, in the briefest possible form. But what does that have to tell us about the philosophy of ethics, or of political or social philosophy? It turns out, it has a great deal to tell us.
As the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, quoting John Donne, “No man is an island.” In other words, we are all interlinked, interconnected, and interdependent. The separation, division and dualism exists, only in our minds.
The clear implication of realizing that all beings and all phenomena are interconnected, interdependent, and fundamentally one, is that it would be an act of self-injury to harm any living being; and it would conversely be a matter of intelligent self-interest, or enlightened self-interest, to behave with compassion to all beings - and that, an injury to one, truly is an injury to all.
Only through delusions of duality can any individual harm another, or seek to gain at another’s expense. The intelligent person, knowing that all beings and phenomena are interdependent, seeks the benefit of others, or at least seeks mutual benefit for all, because he or she is not delusional, but has at least some semblance of inkling, as to the true nature of being and reality, which is non-dual interdependence.
Thus, conventional morality and ethics, which are all rooted in compassion and love - where they have any credibility or legitimacy, that is, and where they are not mere blind habit or custom - are upheld and reaffirmed by a newly rediscovered realization, however dim it may be at present, that all beings and phenomena are interconnected, interdependent, and fundamentally one.
As the Dalai Lama said, “The universal religion is love.”
And that is the case, because the world’s great spiritual traditions, whatever faults or errors they may have had or acquired, are rooted ultimately in the direct, sagely experience of the non-dual nature of being and reality.
Or, to paraphrase Schopenhauer, and make his statement more refined and accurate, for he was basically right on this point, at least:
Compassion is the metaphysical intuition that the self and other are one.
And that intuition happens to be correct. And since we are hard-wired as social creatures to have an innate social instinct, replete with a natural empathy and compassion, as well as a deep-seated, natural impulse towards mutual aid, for this reason, we can and should trust that, “still, small voice within”, which guides us toward compassion, and to love.
All political and social philosophy flows from an understanding, or misunderstanding, of ethics and moral philosophy; and all ethics and moral philosophy - where they are best and most firmly grounded, which is to say, where they are not blind custom, or sheer group-think, or delusion - flow from an ontological and epistemological recognition, however imperfect and incomplete, of the non-dual nature of being and reality, and the kinship of all life.
When we realize that only the non-dual view is in accord with modern science, and moreover, that the non-dual view is the heart of the Perennial Philosophy, and is itself in deepest accord with the mystics and sages from every major spiritual tradition on Earth, then we can begin to have some sliver of confidence, at the very least, that only the non-dual view, is the intelligent view to hold. That leads us, automatically, to a philosophy, and an ethics and morality, which are based in mutual aid, in love, in kindness, and in compassion. That leads us, in turn, to reject categorically, and to see as delusions, and as poisons, the notions and ideologies of nihilism, post-modernism, materialism, idealism, dualism, and the mechanistic world view - along with egoism, narcissism, utilitarianism, neoliberalism, neoconservatism, elitism, authoritarianism, totalitarianism and fascism.
The beginnings of a remembrance of the non-dual nature of being and reality, leads, in short, to a liberation and enlightenment for the individual, and a liberation and enlightenment, and a new renaissance, for human society and the world.
We are now in the midst of a slowly unfolding, but rapidly accelerating, global paradigm shift, not only in science and philosophy, but also in culture - and we are witnessing the very beginnings, of a birth of a new renaissance, as a result of this shift in human consciousness, which may seem painfully slow, to the time-frame of the individual, but which is blisteringly fast, in the time frame of 200,000 years of human history. As Thoreau said, “There is more day yet to dawn.”
In short, Nietzsche was wrong. Nihilism is not the answer. Nihilism is a delusion, and a poison, to be shed, like the dying skin of a snake, or the shell of a man or woman reborn, into a fuller degree of consciousness, being, and empowerment, in a basic and radiant clarity of the mind.
Remember that people used to universally venerate and subscribe to Ptolemy’s view, that the heavens revolved around the Earth, and the Earth was the centre of the universe. It took generations of scholars, scientists and thinkers to refute that long-held dogma, by the then-unquestionable champion of all cosmologists - and some of them, literally lost their heads, under the despotic and blind zeal of the “true believers”. The majority can be wrong. The people can be universally wrong, in fact, and have been, repeatedly, and for very long periods of our history. And we are wrong now to venerate Nietzsche, or his sad and dismal philosophy, of egoistic nihilism.
Nietzsche is dead.
May he rest in peace.
Time marches on. And we are better off without his delusions. Our society has enough delusions to wrestle with, without adding, or retaining, Nietzsche’s dismal nihilism in the mix.
J. Todd Ring,
December 25, 2021
At the end of his life, Nietzsche was walking in the streets of… was it Vienna? …it matters not - when he came upon a horse that had collapsed in exhaustion in the middle of the road. And when Nietzsche saw the fallen horse, he collapsed upon it, with his arms around its neck. This was the moment when he had his final psychotic break. At this point, he is considered to have gone insane. But I would differ.
Nietzsche went sane at the end of his life, in the moment when his natural empathy and compassion welled up for the fallen horse - but he could not bear to realize, at that moment, that the whole of his life’s work, was based in delusion. He knew then, I would assert, in that moment, instinctively and intuitively, and with certainty, that compassion is the most important thing of all, and he could not bear the fact that his entire corpus of writing, was a vile and delusional assault on that which matters the most. And so, he had a psychotic break, and spent the last of his days staring vacantly into space, spoon-fed by his sister. We should, therefore, have compassion for Nietzsche - not venerate him, and certainly not follow him, down that dark road of nihilism, and the madness it inevitably creates, and entails.
In Buddhist philosophy, there are said to be three root poisons, which are the source of all evil in the world, and they are ignorance, greed and hate. In that light, anyone who is mired in nihilism, or preaching nihilism, would be said to be steeped in ignorance. What then, can we say about Nietzsche’s contribution to Western philosophy? Since he got himself mired in nihilism, and ended up leading the people into nihilism, even though he set out to lead them out of it, we would have to say that Nietzsche was a fount of ignorance. And worse than mere ignorance, his writings are a fount of delusion.
Nietzsche famously decried the philosophy of Schopenhauer as “bad Buddhism”. And he was right. Schopenhauer held that the nature of reality is non-dual, as did the Buddha, and as did “the prince of philosophers”, Spinoza. But whereas Spinoza taught that there is only one substance in existence, and it is both consciousness and matter, depending on how you look at it, and that the one substance in existence, he said, you can either call God or nature; and he argued that, as a logical derivation of the truth of non-duality, to live in freedom, and with love and compassion - which create and give rise to true freedom - is simply the intelligent way to live; Schopenhauer, by contrast, viewed all things as non-dual and one, but believed that the universe was a giant mistake; and that the best thing was not to be born at all, and the second best was to die quickly. Spinoza, therefore, could be viewed, not only as, “the prince of philosophers”, and as, “the Christ-like philosopher”, as Deleuze called him, but also, as the Bodhisattva of the West. But what can we say of Nietzsche? I think I would have to say the same thing as with Schopenhauer: his philosophy is what we could call, bad Buddhism.
Buddhism presents two central truths: the truth of interdependence, and the truth of non-duality. The way things manifest is through mutual arising, otherwise called interdependence. The way things are, is non-dual. Their nature is unchanging, while their manifestation is continuously changing, based upon the law of interdependence. (Plotinus would also understand: The many are One; the One is many.)
What is sometimes confused in Buddhism, especially in the West, is that the reference to “emptiness”, is radically misinterpreted as meaning nothingness, or meaninglessness, or both. But this is a misinterpretation that is explicitly warned against in Buddhist philosophy, and it is explicitly called nihilism by the Buddhist scholars and sages - which is described as the worst error of all, since it is a delusion that can be extremely difficult to get out of. It’s like a black hole, which we can create for ourselves, or a sarcophagus, or prison. Only out of a sense of sheer suffocation, does one finally, and eventually, begin to pick away at the bricks of that self-created prison which is nihilism. Better to not build the prison to begin with.
And what does Nietzsche’s philosophy represent, at its core? It is nihilism. Therefore, Nietzsche’s philosophy is, in truth, bad Buddhism.
You would be better off as a fundamentalist, even, than to be a nihilist - so say the Buddhists, and so say I.
Shun nihilism, like it is a plague of the spirit, and a disease of the mind.
(Inspired by a talk by Allan Wallace, Buddhist scholar par excellence, and by a lifetime of study and contemplation - and listening.)
Out of the Sarcophagus: On enlightenment and salvation
Is there grace? Most certainly. Is grace given freely? Decidedly so, yes. Is grace sufficient? Yes. Do we need to earn grace? No. Do we need to prove ourselves worthy of grace? No. It is a freely given gift.
Does that mean that we should spend the rest of our lives eating Doritos and watching TV - that we should do nothing at all? No. Does this mean we should be complacent? No. We make an effort to cultivate and to practice love and kindness, virtue and compassion, and to be of service and benefit to others, not because it is required before we can receive grace, not to prove anything to ourselves or anyone else, not so as to wear our virtue as a badge of honour, which is egotism, vanity and delusion, and not for the sake of any kind of reward, other than the reward which the actions of kindness, virtue and compassion are in themselves; but simply because we care, because we have compassion and love in our hearts, and because we want to bring out our best, do our best, be our best, and give our best.
Faith and love, in the Christian terminology, are central - and love above all.
In Buddhism, as well, enlightenment comes from seeing things directly, as they truly are, which is non-dual - but it is compassion which opens the door to seeing. Is there effort involved? For the vast majority of people, for whom full enlightenment does not come in a single flash, yes, there is effort involved; or better said, vigour, energy, or enthusiasm. And the practice of the six great virtues, or paramitas - which are generosity, ethics, patience, perseverance, enthusiasm, and meditative awareness - are meaningful, because they hasten the path to full enlightenment. In fact, in Buddhist philosophy, it is clearly said that if there is no relinquishing of the confused grasping at the ego and its imagined possessions, that is, if there is no cultivation of great compassion, which is the primary antidote to egocentrism, and to the illusion of separation, division and duality, then there is no possibility for enlightenment, which is itself the direct, non-conceptual, experiential realization of non-duality: enlightenment remains blocked, because the ego remains in the way, occluding and obscuring all, with the delusion of duality; and because the practice of great compassion is the way to gradually dissolve the illusion of separateness and duality, which is the ego fiction, the hallucination or delusion that the self and other are separate, and not fundamentally non-dual, or one. Therefore, the path to enlightenment, is the path which combines the cultivation of the two great treasures, the treasures of wisdom and compassion, both. One leads to the other; and we awaken most quickly, when the two are practiced and cultivated together. And to emphasize once again: without compassion, no enlightenment is even possible. Entertaining ideas, narcissistic self-aggrandizement, delusions of grandeur, interesting experiences, even brief cosmic visions - all of these are possible without compassion, but not enlightenment.
Enlightenment requires the union of wisdom of compassion. They are the two wings of the bird. Without them both, the bird cannot fly, and enlightenment is impossible. Combine them, and you will soar. It is only a matter of time.
When you bring together the causes and conditions, the result is realized. The result, the enlightened mind, is already present, paradoxically - it is the substrate, the ground level of consciousness, the fabric of being and mind itself, which are one, which ordinarily we are too busy, and too confused, to laden with illusions, to be able to see. However, while the result, the enlightened mind, or Buddha Nature, is already present, underneath the veil or clouds of illusion in the mind, in order to be able to see what already is, you must practice. You must thin the veils of illusion, and remove them, layer by layer, or in one deft blow. You practice, not to become something you are not, and not to achieve something or to acquire something that you lack, but only in order to thin, and gradually pierce the veils of illusion, which cover over the true, naked reality, which is not ugly or terrible, much less a bleak nothingness, but a radiance of clear light and utter luminosity, which is our true nature, and which, in the terms of the archetypal Western, Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, is "the ground of being", which in Meister Eckhart's terms, which are the Christian terminology, is the nature of both being and of God - which are one. This is the "cutting through" which is required. If you are a rare being, of extraordinary perception, one in a hundred million, or one in a billion, you can realize it in an instant, simply by having it pointed out. For the rest of us, for the vast majority of people, no matter how clever, erudite, or intelligent you may be, it must be pointed out, and then we must practice - or we must practice, and then have it pointed out, when we are ready to perceive it. Either way, in almost all cases, practice is necessary - even though you are really only realizing that which already is, was, and will ever be. That, by the way, is the union of Mahayana and Vajrayana, the union of the causal vehicle and the result vehicle. If you are interested in that, then this passage, this paragraph, will give you all the clues you need. I'm not trying to be cryptic - I'm simply trying to be pithy and brief. Further references and resources are below, in the footnotes. And don’t settle for mere theory, concepts, or intellectualizations! There is an ocean of difference between a scholar and a sage, or what in India are called pandits and rishis. Scholars know the map. Sages know the destination and the terrain, and have not just studied the map, but have made the journey, and have arrived. (And if you want a reliable guide, which would you prefer?) You can be both, but they are radically different things! Study, contemplation and meditation are the three core wisdom tools - if you want more than mere entertainment value, then you have to include contemplation and meditation, and not content yourself simply with fascinating books and intellectual adventures, which are joyous and meaningful, but not sufficient, in and of themselves. Practice is required, and the principle practices, are study, reflection, meditation, and compassion. These practices gradually dissolve the veils of illusion in the mind, so that reality can be seen, for the first time, as it truly is. Then, typically, after you have seen directly the non-dual nature of being and reality, after you have had a glimpse, a taste, then you must meditate and practice more, until the non-dual view becomes as continuous and as natural as breathing. And again, it is study, reflection, meditation, and the practice of compassion, which stabilizes and deepens the view, until all that remains is clear luminosity, or wisdom-awareness, which is inseparable from universal compassion and love. That is the path to enlightenment.
As the Buddha said, “Wisdom without compassion, is bondage. Compassion without wisdom, is bondage.” Wisdom and compassion must be cultivated and united. When we have achieved that, then only will we truly soar; then only will enlightenment be realized; and then only, will we attain the highest freedom, and the highest happiness.
In fact, from my view, there are only two things worth doing in this life. One is to cultivate and to live with love and compassion. The other is to seek knowledge, truth, understanding, and especially wisdom. The rest is either icing on the cake, so to speak, an added blessing, or else it is a lesson, a learning experience, a cross to bear; or possibly, simply a distraction, or a self-injury. Keep it simple. Seek only wisdom and truth, and to live with compassion and love. Life becomes more interesting, more peaceful, more meaningful, richer and more rewarding, and more simple, when we do.
In both Christianity and in Buddhism, therefore, cultivating and practicing the virtues, particularly of generosity, ethics, patience, perseverance, enthusiasm, meditative awareness - and great love and compassion, above all - definitely matter, and matter profoundly. They are the doorway, not only to the benefit of others, which is important, and extremely valuable, but also, to freedom, to true empowerment, to a regal dignity and confidence which is one with utter humility, because there is no ego in it, to the highest happiness, to peace, to great joy unsurpassed, and more. So yes, these things matter. Values matter. Virtue matters. Kindness, compassion and love matter. They matter a great deal - more than can possibly be said. They matter profoundly. The ancient Greeks were far more wise than Nietzsche, by the way, because they understood that wisdom and virtue matter, and that the two cannot be separated, except by way of delusion, which is madness. Listen closely to the ancient Greeks, and to the mystics and sages of both the West and the East. Skip over Nietzsche. That rotting bog, which his writing represents, and is, has mired enough people in confusion, and in the stupor that is the nihilistic delusion.
For those who are still skeptical, I would say, as the Buddha said, "Don't take anyone's word on things, not even someone you respect, not even myself. Examine things for yourself." And I would add a reminder, from Shakespeare, who himself is quoting the ancient Greek philosopher, Heraclitus:
"There is more to heaven and earth than is contained in your philosophy."
It is necessary to say a few words here about science - or, better said, the cult of science, which is now the reigning religion of the modern world. And yes, science has become a cult, and a religion. This is the radical abuse of science, and the undermining, both of the integrity of science, and the scientific method, and also the credibility of science. Keep proceeding like this, and the people will begin to reject science altogether, which of course, would be a great and terrible tragedy, and a horrible mistake.
Science is supposed to be based upon skepticism and empiricism. But what is practiced by most scientists, and by most people who believe they are scientific, is not skepticism, but dogmatism. Skepticism, when it is truly skepticism, means that you do not believe anything until you have seen evidence for it. But that is not what most scientists, intellectuals, or the general public, practice. They practice dogmatism - the blind faith in certain tenets, or doctrines, and the equally blind and stubborn, closed-minded rejection of any idea, perspective, or evidence, which conflicts with their cherished and beloved doctrines and dogma.
In short, most scientists, academics, intellectuals, and most people in the general public, as well, are as dogmatic and doctrinaire as the medieval scholastics. This is not science. This is the cult of scientism, which is positively anti-empirical, and anti-science.
Secondly, most scientists, academics and intellectuals, as well as most of the common people - who tend to be more open-minded than those who have passed through the generally soul-crushing and mind-deadening “higher education” system, which is better called, higher indoctrination - are rabidly anti-empirical. Again, this is not science, nor is it scientific. This is medieval dogmatism. Any evidence which conflicts with the currently reigning official doctrines and canon, is rejected without examination. This is idiocy, it is dogmatism, and it is certainly not science.
Thirdly, Thomas Kuhn, author of the most important text on the history of science, and the nature of science, ever written, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, was right when he said that most scientists do not practice science - they are not scientists: they are technicians. They do not advance or increase or alter or improve the knowledge base of science, nor do they make new discoveries. They simply take the doctrines as a given, and apply them to problem-solving. That makes them technicians, not scientists.
Technicians apply assumed knowledge, however imperfect it may be, but do not question the assumed knowledge. True scientists question everything. They take a body of knowledge as working hypotheses and theories, but not, take them as definitive, unassailable, eternal truths, never to be questioned or challenged.
True scientists take it as a given, that what we today call scientific knowledge, or “fact”, may tomorrow be proven to have been so much hocus-pocus, mumbo-jumbo, illusion, misperception, misunderstanding, and fluff.
Today’s facts are, very frequently, tomorrows jettisoned illusions. True scientists are continuously aware of this fact, and hence, they deal with all theories, hypotheses, and evidence, from the perspective and attitude of an open mind, seeking evidence to refute or to support a given view - and whether it is an orthodox view or an unorthodox view, has no bearing on the matter! But the high priests and altar boys of “science” cling desperately to their canon, their pantheon of holy saints and canonized doctors of the one true church, their holy doctrines, and their dogma, and scoff and scorn and sneer when presented with theories, hypotheses or views which today are unorthodox, but tomorrow, may well be the new orthodoxy - which they then will hail as the sole and unquestionable, unassailable, immutable, eternal truth! They are lemmings in lab coats. They are not scientists. And this is not simply a fault of a weak-minded minority - this is the overwhelming majority of “scientists”, “scholars” and “intellectuals”! It would be hilarious, if it were not also tragic and deeply sad, and extremely dangerous.
Furthermore, as has been remarked, most people would rather die a thousand deaths, or so it seems, than to admit that they had been mistaken. That goes for scientists and academics, intellectuals and PhDs, every bit as much as the “common folk” - who, it should be added, have less ego invested in their views, and therefore, are actually, in general, more open to new theories, hypotheses, evidence, new perspectives and different views, than are the supposed “scientists”, “scholars” and “intellectuals”.
Of course, corporate and government funding and money-dependency also has no small impact on how science proceeds, and it is increasingly the case, that big money, corporate interests, and big government, are together taking over science, and all of academia; which of course, if it is not stopped, means the death of science, and the death of academia. In their place, we will instead, have the Ministry of Truth, or something eerily akin to it. (See Orwell for details.)
Careerism is another distortion that enters into science and academia, and intellectual life broadly, and has all but conquered it. Most intellectuals, it would seem, would rather be wrong, both morally and also intellectually, than place any slightest risk upon their careers. And again, this spells the death of science, academia, journalism, and intellectual life, if it is not halted, or at least, put in check, and vigilantly guarded against.
And getting to the very heart of the matter, there is the question of what constitutes empiricism itself. David Hume presented a radical challenge, both to science and to Western philosophy, more than 200 years ago, and no one, including Popper and Kant, has adequately answered Hume’s challenge yet. That should be unsettling. But it is glossed over, both in academia and “intellectual” culture generally, and even more so in “science”.
Hume asked how we can verify that our ideas have any accurate correlation to reality itself. No one, at least in the Western world, has answered him yet. Instead, we pretend the question was never raised.
“Look, the emperor has no clothes!”
“Shut up, boy! You’re making us uncomfortable!”
Now, the “scientists” and the “scientific” people will say, religion and spirituality are based in belief, but Science is based in empiricism, and hard facts. Utter non-sense. Another part of the medieval scholastic canon and dogma, which is taken as truth - upon pure faith alone!
Scientists and the scientific-minded assume that when you have an instrument before you, whether it be a telescope or an electron microscope or something else, then you must be empirical - especially if you have the holy icons of graphs and numbers! Non-sense. Whether you are looking at a tree with the naked eye, or looking through a microscope at a cell from the tree, you are relating, above all, to the mental formations, the mental constructs, the ideas, the thoughts, in your own mind.
Everything you see, whether through the naked eye, or through an electron microscope, you see through the prism and the lens of your own mental constructs, filters and lenses. That means, your “empiricism” is utterly in question. It also means that the empiricism of Buddhist meditators, or Christian monks, or an indigenous shaman, who are themselves examining the nature of consciousness and being, is as empirical as what we have, far too loosely and uncritically, and far too narrowly, defined as “science”, for the past 400 years. In both cases, it is the mental constructs, the ideas, the thoughts in our own minds, which we are directly relating to, and are seeing through. In neither case, are we seeing reality directly, empirically, or as it is.
We see everything through our own mental filters and lenses, which are the mental constructs in our minds. Where is your empiricism? It is nowhere to be found. Therefore, you can drop the smug pretense - which, again, is medieval and scholastic, and dogmatic supposition - and admit, there is every bit as much empiricism being practiced by meditators and the shaman, as there is by practicing “scientists”.
Chew on that for a while. And I mean that in all earnestness.
What we need, is a much richer, more nuanced, and deeper view of what empiricism means. What we need, is, in the words of the great psychologist William James, a radical empiricism - and one that is practiced both in the realms of science, and also in spirituality.
And never the ‘twain shall meet? Why not? The Renaissance thinkers, who in some ways were superior to the “scientists”, “philosophers”, “scholars” and “intellectuals” of today, had no problem seeing a confluence and complementarity between science and spirituality. But we, in the vaunted modern world, are so smug as to see a rift, where none in reality exists.
The greatest of scientific minds, such as Einstein, has no problem relating simultaneously, or alternately, to both science and spirituality. Again, it is only the mediocre minds, and the choir boys, altar boys and technicians of “science”, who are afraid of spirituality, or of any wider, or deeper, view of what empiricism constitutes, and truly means.
Finally, there is now, a widely acknowledge crisis of verification in science and academia widely. This cannot be ignored. What we have taken as indisputable “facts”, turn out to be, in many cases, nothing but rumor, speculation and conjecture.
As to verification itself, now that we have shown that there is no empiricism to science, or to academia or intellectual life generally, as David Hume demonstrated; and further, with a far-reaching crisis of verification in science and academia now admitted; why should we accept that “scientific” doctrines are facts, which are verifiable and verified, when we have shown they are neither, while simultaneously refusing to admit that spiritual practitioners are, at least in the best cases, genuinely empirical, or at least every bit as empirical as “science” and “academia”, and that their findings, through empirical investigation, are not only verifiable, but have been verified, not several times, but several thousand times, at the least, by several thousand or more different investigators, throughout several thousand years of radically empirical investigation into the nature of consciousness, being and reality, across all cultures and societies and generations of humankind? A rational approach, would be, therefore, to accept as at least plausible, if not highly probable, that the consensus which has been reached by thousands of individuals, across thousands of years, and in all cultures and societies and ages, which is the Perennial Philosophy, or the monomyth, as Joseph Campbell called it, which is the finding that being and reality are interdependent mutual arisings, and are non-dual? The best scientists and scholars will at least find this intriguing. The pseudo-scientists and pseudo-intellectuals, will, as always, scoff, and stick to the script of their most holy dogma and canon.
Furthermore, the findings of all the great sages can be verified personally, by anyone who undertakes sufficient, rigorous training - training their own mind’s powers and capabilities for concentration, focus and clarity. We do not expect to replicate and to be able to verify the findings of advanced physics in a single hour, or a single day, with no prior training; therefore, we should not expect to be able to independently verify the findings of the sages in a single hour (much less at a glance, with no examination at all) with no prior training.
It generally takes four years of undergraduate studies, plus two years for a masters degree, plus an average of seven years to do a PhD, plus two years or more of post-doctoral studies, which is fifteen years or more, before one can be considered to be adequately trained, prepared, and qualified to repeat the experiments, and verify the findings of advanced physics. It requires a similar amount of time, sometimes more, sometimes less, to train one’s mind sufficiently, so that you can sit in single-pointed concentration for long periods of time, with an extremely high degree of mental clarity, focus, and uncluttered, non-conceptualizing awareness, before you can reach the final goal of examining, in depth, the ground state of consciousness itself. Great rewards, such as improve calm, composure, peace, concentration, health, sleep, and mental clarity, can be achieved in far less time than that; but to reach the final goal of plumbing the very depths of mind - far beyond mere personal tastes, habits, thought patterns and emotions and personal narratives. Examining the deepest nature of consciousness and mind itself, generally requires as much or more training than advanced studies in quantum physics. But the point is, that anyone can verify the findings, if they are willing to undertake the training of their own mental and cognitive powers sufficiently. Verifiability, therefore, is arguably every bit as high in the realm of deep meditation and spiritual inquiry, as it is in the physical sciences - especially considering the widespread crisis of verifiability that has become undeniable across the sciences.
As to faith and belief: How do we respond to statements by leading physicists, on the nature of cosmology or quantum physics? The vast majority of people do not have the necessary training to evaluate, or to verify or falsify, what the physicists are saying. We take their word on faith alone. So do not tell me there is no faith and no belief involved in science. And even the scientists have their own beliefs, naturally. The great majority of them, sadly, have not caught up with modern physics, and are still clinging to an outmoded and obsolete Newtonian-Cartesian paradigm, or world view, which is mechanistic, materialist, and dualistic - even though quantum physics has show this paradigm or world view to be completely mistaken, or to put it bluntly, as delusional as the view, that the Earth is the centre of the universe. Yet, most scientists still cling to it. That is not only a belief system, it is a dogma, a quasi-religious doctrine, and a set of metaphysical assumptions, which are not only mistaken, but radically mistaken, and which were disproven over a century ago, with the birth of quantum physics. In that light, it is utterly accurate to say that the vast majority of “scientists”, “scholars” and “intellectuals”, are literally a century behind, and are clinging, not to science, but to a dead, or dying, ideology.
Essentially, we have four sets of fundamentalists currently dominating modern society - and they are all secular fundamentalists. We have the orthodox, neoclassical economists, with their high priests, their sacred canon and their holy doctrines, all of which are utterly divorced from reality. We have the cult of post-modernism, and its dogmatic nihilism, following in the footsteps, the missteps, of the equally delusional Nietzsche - a nihilistic dogmatism which has clouded, occluded, and virtually lobotomized several generations, for the past, more than fifty years. We have the egomaniacal and quite literally neo-fascist technocrats - the corporate billionaires and their minions, and their messianic fantasies. And we have the rank and file scientists and intellectuals who accept as the Gospel Truth, with a capital T, the materialist, mechanistic, dualistic world view of Newton and Descartes, even though it is an ideology that has been defunct for more than a century. And these four cults of secular fundamentalists control academia, global finance and economics, the major media, the advertising, marketing and PR industries, the large corporations, the military-industrial/Big Tech/Big Pharma complex, the food and agriculture industries, the governments, the school system, and the culture industry. No wonder our world is in a state of profound, existential crisis!
No amount of technological fixes, or even redistribution of wealth, or governmental regulation, can remotely come close to solving the problems we face. Nor can politically-correct censorship and authoritarianism, it should go without saying. We are applying layers upon layers of bandages on the victim, not realizing she is hemorrhaging internally, and our bandages are utterly useless. We need to the roots of the problem - and the roots of the problem lie in our delusional set of ruling ideologies: all of which, trace back, ultimately, to the delusion of duality. The remembrance and rediscovery of the Perennial Philosophy, or the non-dual view, therefore, is not merely academic or theoretical. By now, it has become, quite literally, a matter of life and death. It is by now, a matter of sheer survival. Either we jettison our illusions, or we will slowly die - at the hand of our own blindness and delusions. These are the facts of the matter, and there is no escaping them.
Remember the statement that was made by both Jesus and the Buddha:
“If the blind lead the blind, they will all fall in a ditch.”
By now, it is no longer a ditch that we will fall into, but a dark age, followed by extinction and collapse.
Note here as well, that accepting the Perennial Philosophy, or the non-dual view of being and reality as one of non-local interdependence, is in accord with modern physics; and also, does not negate the knowledge gained in, for example, chemistry, biology, ecology, or neuroscience, but merely presents a contextualization, which deepens, broadens, and clarifies our understanding. Why then, should we object so stridently, when it is only the context or world view which is being challenged, the over-arching paradigm, and not the details of our accumulated science, which themselves still hold true? If we object, we do so as ideologues, as secular fundamentalists, as dogmatists, and not, as scientists, or as genuine scholars - which we decidedly, are not.
Again: curb your dogma.
“There is more to heaven and earth than is contained in your philosophy.”
(See Allan Wallace, Choosing Reality, for an excellent, and rigorous, discussion of science, spirituality and empiricism; and William James’ classic study, The Varieties of Religious Experience, as well.)
Love and compassion are the foundation of all legitimate or rational ethics and morality, because they are the intelligent response to the true nature of being and reality, which is non-dual interdependence. (Spinoza was perfectly right.) For that reason, love and compassion are not only the highest virtues, but also, they are a matter of intelligent self-interest, or enlightened self-interest, because it is mutually beneficial, beneficial to both oneself and to others, to live with compassion and with love. And for these reasons, any social or political philosophy which is not grounded in the two foundational values of compassion and freedom - freedom being a necessary correlate to compassion, for it is utterly uncompassionate to tyrannize, lord over, dominate, or coerce another - is a social theory or political philosophy that is based in irrationality and delusion. When we begin to realize the truth of this one single paragraph, then only, will our politics and our economics, our culture and our society, become just, sane, or free.
Remember Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and many others like him, some of whom gave their lives to secure our freedom, and to defeat fascism and its evil. This is what a good Christian looks like. It is also what a decent human being looks like, regardless of one's faith, religion, or lack of it. It is a matter of courage, of principles, of compassion, and of standing up to evil, no matter the cost, knowing also, that good wins in the end.
The lives we lead, and the communities we help to shape, and the societies and world we help to shape, are powerfully shaped by our attitudes, our world view, and by our actions. If we wish for enlightenment, or wisdom, a meaningful life, or even simply for a happy life, a better community, or a better world, then these virtues, and especially love and compassion, should matter to us greatly. If we are truly intelligent, in fact, they will mean more to us than our very lives. Without them, we are dry bones, empty husks, and hollow shells. Without them, we are the hollow men. (See TS Eliot.) But with them, we can live a life of dignity, confidence, meaning, love, and joy - and the whole world will indeed benefit.
Today is Christmas day. But the same thing can be said of every day:
It is a good day for family and friends and neighbours to unite, to share, and to talk, with open hearts and open minds; but it is always a good day for a little silence, as well. And that last part is as important as the first.
Silence and communion should both be present in our lives - and they support and nourish and enrich one another. The more you can be silent and still, alone with yourself, in equanimity and calm, the more you can be genuinely present for others.
Remember: curb your dogma, and mind your karma.
“As you sow, so shall you reap.”
We are ripples in an infinite pond. Send out only love. Because sooner or later, whatever you send out, will inevitably come back to you.
Shed the dead skin of illusions. You are more than you imagine - not less.
Infinitely more, in fact.
“If the doors of perception were cleansed, everything would appear as it is - infinite.”
- William Blake
If I would not recommend Nietzsche as a philosopher, or a guide to life, to put it mildly, who would I recommend instead? There is a long list of people who would be vastly and incomparably better guides - above all, because they are not insane, and they are not nihilists. They are eminently sane, in fact. Take your pick!
Hildegard of Bingen
Martin Luther King Jr.
Vine Deloria Jr.
And that's just off the top of my head. There are other excellent guides, as well.
Almost anybody would be a better guide than Nietzsche. Hitler, Stalin and Chairman Mao would be worse than Nietzsche, true; but otherwise, I can't think of anyone who would be a worse guide than Nietzsche.
Bart Simpson would be a better guide than Nietzsche - or Homer, or Marge. I mean that literally.
Certainly with the figures mentioned above, from Jesus and the Buddha, to Thomas Paine, anyone would do well to follow their good-hearted and sensible guidance - to say the least.
(Because every essay in philosophy needs at least two titles, two post-scripts - and an epilogue! ;) )
In fact, as I think about it now, perhaps, even with its dangerously authoritarian excesses, the "woke" cultural movement, which is cresting now, will in hindsight, be seen to have been a great benefit to human society, though not entirely for the reasons which the wokesters might imagine. What it has done, is to bring to the fore, the long-standing problems of racism, sexism, bigotry and xenophobia, along with colonialism, and great inequalities of wealth and power. And that was simply necessary, even if the movement has been heavy-handed, to the degree of bordering on neo-Maoism. But the benefits go deeper.
Once we have thrown off the "new normal" of authoritarianism and censorship, which the liberals, progressives, the Left and the wokesters are cheering for - which is to say, when we have regained our basic sanity - then we will find that the woke movement has shaken Western civilization to its very foundations. And that, I do now believe, will have been a very good, and also necessary thing.
We have become unglued, unhinged, unmoored, untethered, drifting aimlessly, while pursuing a feverish path, in a blind faith, that ever more technology, and ever more elitist rule, and material production and consumption, is the answer to all our woes. This was, and is, a path to utter disaster, of course, and to self-annihilation - and towards an annihilation of the soul, which is already well underway, and well advanced, a spiritual decline and decay, as well as further into the obvious and glaring current trends, which are towards fascism, authoritarianism, technocracy, ecocide and genocide.
We needed a shake-up, a cultural, spiritual, and psychological shaking, so it would seem. Moreover, Western philosophy has been at an impasse for some time, a cul de sac. We needed to bridge that chasm, and find a new way forward. And having our foundations shaken, my hope is that we will once again return to our roots, and rediscover the great treasures of Western civilization, and also of the East, the North and the South.
With these treasures remembered and reclaimed, then we will be on good footing to make whatever kind of adaptations are necessary, using our own innate creativity, imagination and intelligence, but with strong foundations restored and secured.
That is my hope, and my prayer - and I believe that this short essay, or meditation, can be of service in that most necessary and urgent of tasks, as I believe my books and other essays to be as well.
Take what you need, and leave the rest. When we restore both our humility, and also our confidence, then only, will we be ready to face the future. And it would seem to me that that is exactly what is happening, right now. Let the new renaissance be born. Indeed, it is already underway.
Brilliant talk here, on Buddhism, Christianity and science, and their common ground. Yes, there are differences, but there is far more common ground than is generally imagined.
Choosing Reality - Allan Wallace
Heart Treasure Of The Enlightened Ones - Dilgo Khyentse
The Heart Sutra and The Sutra of Hui-Neng - Shambhala Dragon Edition
Buddha Nature: The Uttaratantra Shastra - Arya Maitreya
The Mother Of The Buddhas - Lex Hixon
World As Lover, World As Self - Joanna Macy
Dialogues With Scientists and Sages - Rene Weber
The Holographic Universe - Michael Talbot
Mysticism and The New Physics - Michael Talbot
The Hero With A Thousand Faces - Joseph Campbell
The Perennial Philosophy - Aldous Huxley
The Book: On The Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are - Alan Watts
The Way of Zen - Alan Watts
Tao: The Watercourse Way - Alan Watts
Psychotherapy East and West - Alan Watts
Dreamtime and Inner Space - Holgar Kalweit
The Chalice and The Blade - Rianne Eisler
The Ecology of Freedom - Murray Bookchin
The Turning Point - Frijof Capra
The Great Turning - David C. Korten
The Empathic Civilization - Jeremy Rifkin
Mutual Aid - Petr Kropotkin
Oneness vs The 1% - Vandana Shiva
And, for a distillation and synthesis of the best of all of these profoundly important works and many more, see my own essays and books, including:
Enlightened Democracy: Visions For A New Millennium
The People vs The Elite:
A Manifesto For Democratic Revolution,
Or, Survival In The 21st Century & Beyond