Friday, 21 January 2011

What We Are In

Causation involves beginnings and endings and yet the universe must contain (or rather, be contained by) at least one thing THAT HAS NO BEGINNING utterly beyond our mortal comprehension. Also, everything must have something it is IN, some sort of substratum. Ultimately everything is IN what we can only identify as NOTHINGNESS. This nothingness, far from goading us into nihilism and despair, should be our central source of inspiration: it supports and contains everything that we see, touch and know, in the same way that timelessness supports and contains time. How on earth does it do it? How can everything hover in, and be supported by, absolutely NOTHING? It is this fundamental mystery that all people acknowledge in their bones and it is this seminal miracle that enables the highest and the lowest to pass each other in the street and say "God bless you!"

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Evolution's Highest Accolade

Evolution's highest accolade, taking evolution as the wellspring of atheistic philosophy, is 'I survived', or perhaps, 'I survived and reproduced'. Can you see what an absurdly trite sort of triumph that is, how, if I may throw in an oxymoron, dully tawdry? Can the highest reach of civilisation merely be its own continuance?

Supposing you manage to spread your seed all over the world - perhaps you could be the main contributor to the world's largest sperm bank. Have you won? Is that it? You managed to get your genes firmly into the future, so are you a real winner, ready to receive evolution's highest award?

Survival of what? That is the question. What is the use of having millions of children if you don't get even the least pleasure from them? They're dished out in test tubes, perhaps, or you finally end up dead and you don't even know that they exist?

Merely surviving is the triumph of the zombie. Zombies are programmed to survive physically, and that is really their only goal. Evolution has pulled us out of the primal sludge, but it was all preparatory to "Let there be light!" the inception of consciousness, and never let us forget that contemporary zombies are still living in that dark primal sludge.

Now we have a new criterion: that which leads to the nurturing and survival of consciousness itself. It is a new type of survival which sometimes runs in an exactly opposite direction to zombie survival.

Consciousness survives on love, on altruism, on risking one's physical life for what one knows is right and good, while zombies survive on selfishness and greed. If your only ambition is physical survival, you may be led to do things which kill the spark that was really your only hope. I don't need to give you the obvious biblical quote.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

As if in answer

At lunchtime today I heard a talk in Battersea by a psychiatrist called Dr Hughes (who looks and sounds rather like the late Anthony Clare). Dr Hughes has just returned from Haiti where he lived in a tent and saw around him the most extreme suffering imaginable: people who had lost everything, their friends, their families - amazed still to be alive themselves.

A psychiatrist of course has to deal with people who have received more suffering than they can bear.

Amongst the lifeless bodies that lay around, he saw a three-year old child trying to talk to his dead father on a mobile phone.

When Dr Hughes arrived, there was no government, society had broken down, kidnapping was rife (worse than anywhere else in the world) and young men, morally derelict from the tension, were raping the young girls.

Yet he wants to be there more than he wants to be here. The people of Haiti are proud of their country. They are deeply religious, and in spite of all that has happened, believe profoundly in God.

Alleviating even a tiny part of the suffering can awaken and enlighten the one helping as well as the helped.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Better Ways

Of course, suffering is a bad way of waking up. There are much better ways: compassion, work, love, music, altruism, knowledge. But suffering is the default way.

And of course, suffering doesn't necessarily go away even when you do wake up. But once you have woken up you have a much better chance of not actually being the cause of the suffering yourself.

The most difficult question is why innocent, conscious, children should suffer. Their suffering may be from some natural disaster not of human making. If there were no hazards there would be no parenthood and no heroism. The dangers are real dangers.

But there is survival. What real harm does drama do, if you still exist at the end? There is a lot of evidence that we do still exist at the end.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011


Suffering is a flint stone. With a hard blow or severe friction out of it comes a spark. The spark is consciousness.

The early Theosophists, when they saw a large stone, would give it a kick. That was to start it on the path of evolution!

A Zen master sometimes gives his student a sharp blow with a stick - when the student least expects it. Often that is the final stage and the student suddenly becomes enlightened.

If the suffering doesn't succeed in making a spark then the person will complain that there is no God.

Sometimes the suffering will make intermittent sparks. We've all met people who thrive on war and can't wait until there's another one. We know people who love fear and rush gleefully into danger. Why? Because they recollect the spark of consciousness which came with the fear, and that was when they felt really alive.

A real artist can feel alive even without suffering. That is because of the creative spark.

Monday, 10 January 2011

Atheists are irrational

Atheists, particularly scientific atheists, are always claiming that they are 'rational' (Richard Dawkins and Peter Atkins, for instance). Peter Atkins says that atheism is the 'default position'.

How can that be so? They clearly believe that the universe created itself and that it holds itself in existence, in other words, sustains itself.

That ascribes GODLIKE qualities to the universe itself. For them, the universe sprouts out of nothing and remains there with the aid of nothing. That deserves worship. It is a kind of pantheism. For them, the universe IS GOD.