Monday, March 5, 2007

From Dreams to Who Knows Where

Night before last I had a series of dreams about three large trays of things that were put in front of me, apparently for me to do something with – to sort out, perhaps? The same trays appeared in turn more than once, but even so the memory faded quickly. I associate the things on the trays with charcoal briquettes, poker chips, fragments of stone, bits and pieces of this and that. “Junk” comes to mind. I felt I was supposed to deal with all those things, but I rebelled and said, “No, just let it fall as it may. Do as you like.” The feeling was that I’d had enough, that I was courageously refusing to take responsibility for all this stuff that was put on my plate by . . . what? A “higher power”?

It was in that context that I had a new feeling of fearlessness that expressed itself in a kind of flippancy in addressing the “higher power”. It was as if I were recognizing a greater power in my own self, as well as a dependable helper which some might call “spirit guide” or “guardian”. . . a helpful power which assists, protects, heals.

My attitude was something like, “Look, I’m tired of this nonsense. I’m part of the stars and galaxies. I’m at home everywhere.”

My disrespect reminds me of the concept that we are gods, as well as an ancient idea I read recently that God was created to serve man and not vice versa.

The traditional Christian religions encourage an attitude of humble fearfulness toward which I thumbed my nose with my defiant flippancy. “A neurotic goes through life as if constantly expecting to be spanked.” Regardless of the pretty words about love, and that fact that one can now see Roman Catholic priests prancing down aisles playing guitars, the traditional idea of organized Christian religions has been: “Do exactly as we tell you and you’ll be all right, but you’ll be in terrible trouble forever if you don’t obey.”

The very fact that the God is addressed so often with the word “merciful” implies that He might not be. Those in a position to exercise mercy are conquerors and despots.

I’m belaboring the obvious, but I want to put my last night’s sense of fearlessness in perspective. If you have read FLIGHTS OF PEGASUS you know that I write a lot about spirit and afterlife in a non-Christian context . . . but in many of us there are still thorns of childhood indoctrination that need to be dissolved and that have not been replaced by any similarly authoritative explanation of how the universe works. My emphasis here is on “authoritative”. We exchange the certainty of paternalistic, authoritative, fear-enforced dogma for unanchored wondering about the endless mysteries of existence.

Don’t misunderstand me: Wondering is the preferable way to go, and fleeing back to authority and dogma would be surrendering to fear. But how fortunate are those who were never inculcated with terrible ideas in the first place!

How is it that the rule of fear and pain seems to have triumphed in so many religions? Is it because fear is inherent in the human condition? Or is it because those who want to dominate a tribe quickly discover the power of frightening people with threats from “supernatural” beings regarding whom the priest or ruler claims some special knowledge and relationship? The strength of a priest or king can be put to the test, but there is no limit to the strength of an invisible, imaginary power.

The core of fear in Christianity has obviously been the fear of hell, of damnation in some form. Which makes me wonder about an ideology like Judaism, in which I understand there is no hell, or even an afterlife. Jewish holy days don’t involve the components of some kind of cosmic “salvation” as much as celebrating historical events in which the Jews’ enemies were overcome or killed. And they have a legalistic aspect, as in the annual Kol Nidre prayer which I just discovered, which is said in synagogues on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement):

‘All vows obligations, oaths, and anathemas, whether called 'ḳonam,' 'ḳonas,' or by any other name, which we may vow, or swear, or pledge, or whereby we may be bound, from this Day of Atonement until the next (whose happy coming we await), we do repent. May they be deemed absolved, forgiven, annulled, and void, and made of no effect; they shall not bind us nor have power over us. The vows shall not be reckoned vows; the obligations shall not be obligatory; nor the oaths be oaths.’

Jewish comedians joke about being guilt-ridden, but what is the source of their guilt? Guilt seems a close relative of fear. Can you suffer much from guilt if you don’t think something bad might happen to you because of what you did to cause the guilt? Society associates guilt with punishment . . . but without damnation, where is the punishment? Is the penalty suffering illness or poverty in this life, or an early death? And if the latter, by what mechanism can priests or their equivalent take advantage of such fears to keep the tribe in line? I think of the Old Testament Hebrew prophets and their frequent warnings that their tribe will be punished if it doesn’t obey the laws laid down by the tribal god. And the prophecies of punishments for Hebrew disobedience came true again and again – but they were earthly punishments, not afterlife punishments. Can the constant threat of earthly punishments be as effective as the threat of eternal punishment in an afterlife? I doubt it.

This meandering post is definitely not meant to answer questions, but instead to ask them. I’m hoping for comments.


  1. What if there were a Happiness God, and education (in how to create happiness) the only "punishment" for creating unhappiness. History books could teach us how our ancestors enhanced their world instead of how they killed and conquered.

  2. At the risk of diving into the realm of psychology, I believe that the focus of the dream is writing, and perhaps you are liberating yourself from the need to 'sort' out your thoughts, your audiences or whatever restrictions and pre-conceived ambitions you may have about your work.

    It may be something more than that as well and represent a new level of courage towards the future and the 'hereafter'.

  3. I think dreams are our only realistic guide as to what is actually going on in our unconscious. I think your dream is suggesting that there may be things in your life, on your plate, that need classification. You mention, briquettes, poker chips, and fragments of stone. It would be interesting to work out what these things mean to you and sort them accordingly. They must hold some sort of symbolic importance as they were shown to you more than once.

    Some of our thoughts are more important than others. Really important insights need to be grasped and held firm, while more flippant things need to be treated as such and relegated to the trash can, I think we need to exercise our discriminatory faculty much more with regard to our thoughts. Many people discourage conversations on serious topics. I've had that experience many times, when a conversation was getting really interesting and someone flippantly changed the topic, maybe because they found the conversation heading in a direction they would just as sooner not go. Fair enough, I suppose, annoying in some ways, but some people really aren't ready to discuss some things and possibly never will be. Our minds really are like a huge filing cabinet, we tend to sweat on the small stuff and not give proper consideration to the really important issues. If someone wants to talk to me about the afterlife, I should try to engage a different part of my being in that conversation than I would to a conversation about what time the bus will show up. Often we don't recognise the need to make these distinctions with our levels of attention to our thoughts, and it all goes in on the same level, even though it differs greatly in quality.

    I've just realised I've almost completely contradicted freyashawk! Oh well. It wasn't my intention! I've been thinking of changing my name to Jack Blunt!

  4. things presented on a plate........

    not wanting to deal with things.

    poker chips.

    a gamble?

    life is that, if nothing else.

    i see no evidence of any higher power than ourselves.

    the true gnosis is a pesonal divinity.

    if you dare.

  5. Thanks to all of you for your comments. I want you to know how much I appreciate them even though I've been prevented from responding properly. I'll be back.

  6. J, your idea of a Happiness God is great. Why isn't it like that? Maybe you should start a religion. : )

  7. Your dream immediately reminded me of Rudyard Kipling's Kim. The boy is being tested to see if he is sharp enough to spy on behalf of Her Majesty's Government and is shown a tray of different jewels. Then while the tray is hidden from him a jewel is taken away and he is to spot which one. I was introduced to this as Kim's Game in the Boy Scouts, long ago.

    But you have interpreted it for yourself and I think your ideas are very exciting. I personally don't think all religions, now or in history, have used hell-fire intimidation as their biggest ace, though it certainly was a huge factor in the European Christian Middle Ages.

    I think religion results from man's sense of vulnerability in this world, and has been hijacked in each generation by those who see a power structure which they can manipulate.

    There is no doubt that slaves saw Christianity as a message of hope in the next world which gave them some dignity in this. But then the successor to their simple faith has enslaved their free descendants.

    I'm thinking here of Jamaica especially, and the rallying cry of the Rastafarian hero, Bob Marley: "Free yourselves from mental slavery!"

  8. To all who commented: I find myself wanting just to mull over what you've said rather than launch into a comment of my own. It is very good for me to know your feelings about my dreams Link, Freyashawk, Alistair. You show a lot of insight and ingenuity. Thank you!

    Yves, you wrote, "I personally don't think all religions, now or in history, have used hell-fire intimidation as their biggest ace, though it certainly was a huge factor in the European Christian Middle Ages." You are certainly right, and I felt reservations about my blanket statements in the blog post, but I put them aside in order to make a point, except for musing about Judaism. I want to learn more about and discuss religions and cults which have NOT used fear as a means of control.
    If you want to prompt me I'd be happy. I know that Freyashawk is an expert on ancient religions and cults and rituals; maybe she'll help.

  9. I think it is a mistake to look at any organisation that purported represents any religion as the true spiritual foundation of that religion. One can organise rituals and festivals. One can organise 'sacraments' even. What organisations should not do is to define humanity's relationship with God.

    It is the organisation or the human voice of a religion that superimposes 'fear' on everything, in the same way that some parents teach their children by using fear as a motivation.

    If you look at Christ or Buddha, they did not focus on fear in their visions of the divine. Unfortunately, although the religions are named after these individuals, they have become a vehicle of control of the masses... which has nothing to do with the Divine and everything to do with people.

    'God is Love' should be the foundation of Christianity, and there is no reason why it couldn't be. It is the old Hebrew idea of a vengeful, petty disciplinarian that has permeated organised 'Christianity' and perverted it from the vision of Christ.

    The Sufis are interesting because they are a product of Islam, Christianity and Eastern mysticism. One need only read the Rubaiyat or any of Rumi's poems to experience love of the Divine and to see that religions can be freed from all the human impurities that have discredited them.

    On a different topic, 'Kim's Game' is fascinating because of its focus on the element that has disappeared. Our attention, if untrained, often is 'caught' on the most vivid, colourful or beautiful object or person in a room. The trained observer will register the presence of all equally. In a way, it is the 'objective' observer sees everything and the 'subjective' observer sees only what interests him/her personally.

    This brings me to something that I find truly outrageous.

    A few days ago, some one I know had brain surgery. The hospital immediately 'googled' the man's name... finding a number of 'hits' and seeing that the individual had some minor accomplishments in the world of the arts, the surgeon declared, 'We MUST save THIS brain!'

    The person who relayed this to me thought it was wonderful that the hospital recognised
    the 'importance' of this individual. I found it absolutely appalling. Apart from the question of the relative importance of the internet in the realm of our general existence, surely the life of each patient should be of equal value to a surgeon. And no, it wasn't a joke.

  10. Freyashawk, your latest comment is fascinating. You're always good at pulling varied things together and revealing the underlying connections and interactions. You've also helped me to "think away" from the fear-based religions I was complaining about and to recall other dimensions of humankind's spiritual seeking.