When well-meaning people fail to take the moral highground in pursuing their noble goals, terrible things sometimes result.
The moral highground demands that we work towards a world of more authentic, honest and open dialogue, resonant with the concrete reality that we are all part of the earth and need to mobilize our higher consciousness more and more to solve ever more difficult problems coming our way. But many leaders of great causes are willing to do ANYTHING at times to advance their cause, even when it involves demonizing, belittling and distorting other important well-meaning people on the earth. Today I will talk about four important examples of this phenomenon:
1. How Stalin invented “capitalism” – a particular concept of capitalism which is now coming back to
cause huge problems in the US;
2. How the Catholic Church invented devil worship and the black mass
3. How the Orthodox Church invented evil life-opposing Gnostics
4. How certain Imams invented the concept of Yezidi as devil-worshippers, thereby themselves creating their own devil.
These are all important, but I will say more about 1 and 4 today because they are more prominent in current events. There are many other examples, however. I also think of scientologists talk about the Organized Great Insanity, and the wonderful interview yesterday with the head of the international olympics organization. He said: “No, the organization was not corrupt. It is just the PEOPLE in the organization who were INDIVIDUALLY corrupt.” No conspiracy, just the systematic effect of certain rules, systems and beliefs. Lethal entropy and active destruction can indeed happen even without a monolithic organized conspiracy – and that is part of what is happening both to US government and to world economy at this moment, threatening our very existence.
So let us start with (1), which is already enough to inflame some people.
============== EXAMPLE 1 ===============================
There is no doubt that Stalin was one of a group of many people (not just the Communist party) who believed they were promoting progress and a hope for a better life for humanity. But he also believed that the ends justify the means, and he engaged in a rather vigorous well-organized propaganda effort. Attacks on “capitalism” were a very central part of those propaganda efforts, and they worked very hard to paint their adversaries in the most negative possible light, without much attention to accuracy and precision. Is that putting it nicely? Well, we too require a bit of niceness these days. There is also no doubt that the founder of the Koch dynasty, and Ayn Rand, grew up in the sphere of that propaganda – and were inspired BY THAT propaganda to embrace precisely what Stalin was attacking, a concept of capitalism which came from Eastern Europe especially –not even the milder more analytic story on capitalism taught by Marx himself as an unhappy outlier still in Trier and London. Many of the oligarch types in power in Russia today came from the same cultural background, in which capitalism means “it’s just business” when they kill their competitors or use other underhanded means, totally eroding the economy of the country. And now they and their attitudes are coming here.
Was there ever a different concept of capitalism?
Some of the extreme Koch followers would say no, that other stuff is all a bunch of pointy headed socialist propagandists, like those communists who teach at Harvard or write for the Financial Times. I have even heard some describe Jefferson and Washington as evil freemasonic conspirators trying to take us to a socialist new order, whose evil innovations like freedom of religion and belief and practice should be “reformed” so that we can return to the more enlightened ways of the Middle Ages (like 600AD?).
But when I was growing up... I actually went to Harvard, and read a lot of what Jefferson had to say. Here in Virginia, I have learned real stuff when visiting Mount Vernon and the George Washington Masonic Memorial (which also informs us about changes in the US, not all encouraging). And yes, I even joined the Quakers, not for political reasons, but for reasons people might call “spiritual,” though the word “spiritual” does not do full justice to the great power and reality which is really out there. (More on that later, if I get around to all four examples I started with.) I even learned about the friendly Irish tavern on Haley Street, owned by relatives of my mother, where Jefferson, Franklin and Washington had friendly deep conversations over madeira, bringing out the harmony between the unique insights they had which helped create the original version of the United States. (Franklin was not a Quaker... but Free Friends and their friends were one of the major forces here).
Yes, there was another concept of America and freedom, not created by Stalin or by the Koch brothers. It was not at all feeble and it was not just a shadow of socialism or materialism or of the Holy Inquisition . I am tempted to say more about it right now, because of how important the ideas are... but let me get back to the point. (Well... OK... given time, Weber’s book on the spirit of Protestantism and the capitalist revolution is one of many relevant sources in addition to what I mentioned above. Honorable competition... chivalry... workable consciously analyzed rules... the social contracts and compacts Yeshua talks about a lot..)
It is very disturbing to me lately how successful the efforts have been to polarize the US along the lines envisioned by Stalin – HIS version of capitalism and oligarchs versus something like his version of Stalinism.
Just two presidential-level people in the US have spoken out really strongly on this problem since World War II, that I know of. Ronald Reagan and Hilary Clinton. Neither are perfect or omniscient people, but at least they had a basic awareness of a very deep and serious problem here.
Reagan was very clear – “WE should not let our adversaries define who we are. We are for FREEDOM, not for their warped version of capitalism.” Hilary was even more clear about this dilemma in recent years. – how to be really strong in defense of freedom and the REAL American culture, without causing a growth in the corruption and Stalin-capitalism which threaten our survival as surely as any foreign enemies do.
Are the Koch brothers themselves as bad as some of their followers – like the ones who in the past few years have systematically liquidated almost all of the most advanced S&T R&D in the US, replacing it with a chain of folks more like puppets on a string (oligarchs love to play at being organ grinders and eliminating independent thought)? After all, there are folks who claim to follow Jesus who engage in hate and violence radically different from what Jesus himself taught. I have friends who believe that the Koch brothers themselves sincerely want to advance freedom, and can’t help it that they don’t know what damage their own followers are doing. But in fact, failure to pay honest attention to the real physical threats like diminishing oxygen levels in the deep waters of the Pacific (just one important example) ... may be understandable, but fatal. We should try to be understanding... but also fight to stay alive. At least, that’s part of our calling here on this tiny planet.
Luda says: “Hey, don’t blame it all on Stalin. People were shooting it out long before he was born. Consider your self-righteous Andrew Carnegie, who hid in Scotland when his people were murdering those free people of Pennsylvania.” My reply: “People of all beliefs have had episodes of crime, of individual lapses, and challenge in following through their beliefs. But in those days, the original culture here was stronger and more alive, and that was crucial in enabling Teddy Roosevelt to come in and fix the problem, by building new systems to more fully implement our basic values. Our problems now are more serious.”
ON TO EXAMPLE 3 (GNOSTICISM) AND THEN 4 (A BIG ONE)
But to avoid putting too much into this post, let me skip point 2 about the black mass (which is already well-covered in the literature), be brief about 3, and then move to 4.
(3) – the orthodox church and Gnosticism – is an obscure footnote to most people in the US, but to those of Greek culture it is a big deal. And a lot of people further east still resonate with Greek culture.
But what IS Gnosticism?
One can find two definitions out there:
(1) A deep general movement, in existence for millennia to develop “spiritual wisdom” – and to enhance direct human experience in a way which supports deeper personal understanding and engagement with spiritual reality as such.
(2) A specific cultural movement, which sounds a bit like a warped form of Buddhism, which regards life on earth as evil and tries to change the whole world to put it on a path of collective suicide, to eliminate such life.
As I type this, I am reminded of SOME strands of AI and transhumanism which actually fit (2) pretty well, shockingly so, more than most people would imagine.
There are even some people who would say with great confidence: “OF COURSE 2 is the correct definition. Don’t you have a basic education? Haven’t you read....?”
Yes, but even a rural type of Greek should remember that “gnosis” was not really a synonym for “thanatos.”
More precisely – there is no such thing as “the one and only correct definition” of a word like this. We really need to have some perspective in how we use words. How would we respond if Stalin said: “Capitalism does mean shooting everyone who gets in your way, without rules. In capitalism “It’s just business.” That’s what it is, because I get to define the word. I have that right. Anyone who uses the word in a different way, whether their names be Smith or Walras or Mills, is guilty of a violation of language and therefore should have their works burned for incorrectness and incoherence. It is all incorrect by definition, since they do not use the correct definition of the word ‘capitalism.” I suppose that most people would see through that by now if Stalin said it, but with the word “gnostic” the same type of perverse illogic seems to sell better.
A stereotype like (2) really can be useful to local power-seeking priests in the orthodox church, to terrify people away from liberating their minds and seeking true wisdom and spiritual growth. Just like the fear of black masses and devils was used to control lots of people in the west. And in the same way, it also encouraged a dissident small minority, the spiritual equivalent of Koch brothers, to perform black mass or embrace concept (2) of gnosticism. All contrived ways to try to enslave the mind and the spirit, supposedly as a means towards a higher end, but not really. It doesn’t work. What does work (if anything at all can save our endangered species) is more like what Reagan called “the moral highground.” It is very worrisome and ironic that the most visible person still pushing that in the US today is our embattled and fallible Hilary Clinton... but hey, lots of us have been embattled and fallible forever now.
EXAMPLE 4: THOSE IMAMS WHO KILL KURDS AND CREATE THEIR OWN DEVILS
Can you sincerely imagine Mohammed himself crying out “oy veh”? I certainly can.
In fact – in the past few years I have learned a lot about the deeper power and significance of three words I had underestimated, in order: zhengqi, aloha and oy veh. After I learned about zhengqi and aloha, I decided to look into oy veh.. and was surprised but not surprised. I think of oy veh as what Moses said when he saw his people worshipping a golden calf. (And yes, I have seen such golden animals myself many times in China.) And what Jesus said to the money makers in the temple, the scene in the Bible which I have more total belief in than any other, even though Jesus usually tried to be more peaceful. (He would say the same about hypocrites and money-changers in Congress. Jefferson did not argue for a free market in trading puppets to fill seats in Congress.) And for Mohammed, the real Mohammed, seeing the money changers in Mecca, making money from abusing the spiritual inclinations of the people, was just as serious and fundamental. It was the perversion of spirit, corruption, myopia and failure to connect with greater spiritual reality which drove him to action. Indeed, he already said “oy veh” (the inner word said by Moses on seeing the golden calf) the first time, that day in Mecca.
But if he saw ISIS and the folks plotting their version of the Third Caliphate, he would certainly say “oy veh” again, many times. (Strange as it may sound... I have some feeling I have actually heard this.) This is a very important part of our world today.. but.. as with our friends drinking madeira in Philadelphia... I will skip many important things, to pick out just one, the slander being committed against the Kurds and the Yezidi. (Those are APPROXIMATELY the same, though I know they are not identical, and I don’t know the degree of overlap. I do know that some Kurds are Marxists rather than Yezidi, but then again some Russians are true Marxists too, while others have other beliefs.)
I was struck briefly but intensely back in the 1970s, when I read (probably in something written by Gurdjieff) that the Yezidi are devil worshippers. This is very well known all across the Middle East, he said. Gurdjieff was certainly not a jihadi sharia fundamentalist type... and he traveled a lot in those areas... but he did have a lot of contact with Sufis. Sufis are among the most enlightened of all people in the Middle East, and followers of the true struggle of gnosis or itzjihad, working to bring people personally closer to the spirit and God and love. Yet even the most enlightened people on earth (like me?) can make serious mistakes at times, especially when it comes to accepting popular culture in their part of the world.
It is not easy to liberate the spirit from excessive dependence on provincial tribal practices, from golden calfs to belief in witch hunts. So perhaps even Sufis assumed that this propaganda produced by a different type of imam is true. (Of course, the exact same kind or propaganda in the west says that of course all Moslems are murderers, devil worshippers and enemies of the spirit committed to getting all humans killed in the end. Evil PR in the hands of the powerful exists in all nations.)
But now, as ISIL engages in mass murder of Yezidi and Kurds in general... some of the truth has begun to come out, even in mass media. Of course, searching on Yezidi on the wbe gives a view of what THEY say they believe.
Should we believe them, when they say someting quite different?
I can imagine a sketch of a poor honest sincere Moslem being confronted by an arrogant nasty Crusader saying: “You believe in murder of innocents and crimes against humanity and total intolerance. I know this, because I know the real truth about Islam.” This Moslem may say honestly, “But please, sir, that ISN’
T what I believe. What I believe..” and then he gets cut off: “Silence! I will not tolerate your lies and your disrespect. I know what you REALLY believe...” Yet the Third Caliphate folks are doing exactly the same way with the Yezidi and the Kurds! Perhaps they have heard so many stories about powerful evil crusaders that deep in their minds they try to be the same from their own base. (Actually, I have experienced much the same myself from Litmus Test Rightists in the US, who tell me what I believe about climate change and do not respect my right to have an informed alternative view!)
But what DO the Yezidi actually believe, and what truth may it contain?
Their beliefs have some relation to the old question: “Just exactly what IS God, assuming the word ‘God’ actually refers to something alive and intelligent to some degree?”
Official traditional Catholics say: God is the Holy Trinity – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Jesus, the son, talked a lot about The Father, and we all know the spirit is in there somehow.
A couple of years ago, in a friendly late night conversation at my brother’s house in New Jersey, I mentioned: “Yes, and we saw a lot about the main holy trinity, you know – the momma, the papa and the kid...” and my mother suddenly jumped up out of her clam sleepy state. “Hey, Paul, where did YOU go to school? Don’t you know, it’s the father, the son and the holy ghost... how could you possibly say such a thing?” I did not argue. Sometimes she shows deep and powerful sensitivity and spiritual connection, but some of those Catholic flags will rouse her to a state where argument is not the right response.
In fact, “what is God” doesn’t really mean much if people do not make any effort at all to connect or account for that phenomenon in real life. But Quakers, for example, mostly believe in trying hard on a personal basis to listen for the “voice of God” – and it becomes increasingly important to try to figure out which voice is which and sort out what you are listening to and how to communicate with it.
Mohammed did not say: “Bow to your Imam five times a day and show obedience to him.” Lots of imams try to convey that idea, but fortunately many others, more honest, do not succumb to that temptation of ego and lust for power. He wanted people to look to the east or look to Mecca, to try to connect with something bigger than themselves. Could it be that in the sad world today the Yezidi are actually doing that more than most Moslems (though of course serious Sufis also practice itzjihad)?
As they open their eyes and look... I have the impression... the Yezidi do talk of something more like a duality rather than a trinity or “just one thing.”
Looking at reality... the kind of trinity I see is more like us, the earth and the galaxy. I do not see Jesus as co-creator of the universe (as is depicted in Hagia Sophia, where the Roman Emperor portrayed Jesus and himself as the two co-creators, and tried to get Christianity to accommodate as much as he could of the old idea that the Roman Emperor is also a person or God or god). (Hey guys, I am not making this up. I was there, in flesh and blood. See an earlier blog post.) I see Yeshua as part of the “us,” as he seems to say himself again and again in the New Testament. Of course, Islam agrees with THAT part.
But earth and galaxy?
Is it true that we are part of the earth and children of the galaxy?
I like the term “pater galacticus,” which merges a couple of things and reminds us that there is something quite real and quite a bit bigger than all of us on earth.
In deepest meditation, and in “cosmic consciousness,” it is really important that we distinguish between voices of “us” (which may include a crazy axe murderer or political PR agent across the street), the “voice of the earth” and the light, high frequency, powerful elusive traces from pater galacticus which should never be confused with the local imam. In my view, even the famous white horse of Mohammed rising up to “heaven” is all part of the earth, a positive and powerful realm/level of spirit/mind which is still quite small compared to the galaxy and what is larger. To open at all to pater galacticus... it certainly does help to look at a clear night sky and SEE the galaxy right in front of us, and remember how small this earth is in the lager scheme of things. But even so, I agree with the mezzo imams that most of us have more important things to work on... involving our role as part of the earth.
Even all together, forming the “noosphere” or Gaia, we of the earth are very much fallible, and our lives as a WHOLE are very much at risk right now.
The Yezidi make exactly this distinction – the spiritual reality we are PART of, as part of the earth, and the greater reality beyond it. Being part of the earth and trying to keep it alive is not an act of worship so much as an act of survival and sanity and recognition of how small we are as individuals, even when we aspire to the highest benefits and impacts we are capable of. (Faust in Goethe’s version was not really a devil worshipper either, even though he too had to learn just enough of the right kind of humility and respect for love.) This duality is not an affront or disrespect to pater galacticus, or to the greater whole. On the contrary. At least in my view, a proper parent WANTS his children to learn to solve their own problems, without having to be manipulated down to strings on their arms and legs. By the Father, we are called to be part of the whole, and to engage properly as part of the earth.
To the Russians, “Yezidi” is basically the word for “pagan,” for folks inheriting common sense perceptions dating back millennia, to a time when it seemed natural for natural people all around the world to talk about “earth mother, sky father.” Their categories of perception and analysis were limited... but in my view, their perceptions make a lot of sense.
There is a lot more to be said about all this, and the many twists and turns it has taken in human history in many places... but this is already long enough for a blog post.
Best of luck. We need it.
Oops. What about this election coming up in the US? I am not involved at all in that kind of politics, though I do plan to stay informed, open-minded and alive on a spiritual level. And yes, though I know of Hilary's failings and am an Independent, I notice that she is the only candidate on the horizon who seems even aware of some of the really hard challenges we are facing. At the recent Republican debate, I saw only one candidate of the ten who lived up to the moral highground as discussed above. Certainly if you asked whether anyone was slandering or belittling other people ... well, though he was not alone, you can easily remember for yourself who took the lead in selling that kind of behavior! But if we need a new Teddy Roosevelt, would he also be our best chance of redoing that kind of necessary housecleanning, and returning to a lot of essential innovations needed to keep the real American spirit alive? Maybe. I doubt it. But I will try to be open-minded. If he could make up with Arianna Huffington (who was part of Gingrich's entourage after all, and author of "Pigs at the trough"), I might see some hope for him. I suspect that Hilary feels very overwhelmed right now... as do I...
but we will see.
What if the Republicans nominate the one guy out of the ten who was really sticking to the moral highground?
Well, we will see. As I see it, my duty now is to keep an open mind and be engaged with the spirit of the people.
What if the Republicans nominate the one guy out of the ten who was really sticking to the moral highground?
Well, we will see. As I see it, my duty now is to keep an open mind and be engaged with the spirit of the people.