I like to say I’m a fan of situational irony, so I’m sympathetic to your suspicion that Christianity and virtually all literalistic theologies represent colossal blunders and embarrassing betrayals of our heroic potential. I’d call the blunders dehumanizing to almost a Gnostic degree, since they pacify and enslave us, giving us false certainty and hope.

Christianity strikes me as the most egregious culprit in this regard, although I’m not sure the goal should be to tear down the BS, as you suggest. There’s some comedic value in maintaining our foolishness as an unenlightened herd until we’re ready to improve ourselves, since we thereby give the more enlightened individuals something to laugh at to pass the time. Or is that too cynical? Anyway, the Eastern religions generally are more philosophical and openly spiritual, although they too have their popular compromises.

Would you say animism is implicitly monistic or pantheistic, and that that height of spirituality descended into polytheism, which fell further into monotheism? Is that the regression from esoteric wisdom (or blissful innocence) to exoteric folly that you envision?

I have a somewhat different take on these ideas. You say that the task of enlightenment is to know the nature of our consciousness. I can’t help but interpret history as a material realization of our godhood through technoscientific self-empowerment. Now, most spiritual people will think of that secular progress as a satanic, hubristic bluster or sin and I’d agree that there are such dangers (toxic masculinity/rampant sociopathy, destruction of the ecosystems, degradations of plutocracy, etc), but the fact is that the growing knowledge and power are as real as anything else.

There’s no guarantee the process will be completed to the point of achieving the transhuman fantasy of a truly godlike, galactic civilization. But I’m not sure the alternatives of meditation, reflections on peak states of consciousness, and disciplining ourselves in humility on the assumption that subjective truth is more real than the “illusions” of material being are as compelling as secular progress in what I take to be the all-important aesthetic sense. We’re inherently irrational, as far as cognitive science tells us, so we’re easily swayed by fictions, including the metanarratives or myths that Yuval Harrari points out are needed for us to cooperate peacefully with millions of strangers in a civilized setting.

After all, what we’re supposed to get from Eastern enlightenment isn’t personal immortality but escape into nonbeing and liberation from rebirth. I admire the anti-natural stance of this kind of spirituality, but I’m inclined to demystify that stance. At least, another escape from the absurd mindlessness and inhumanity of the universal wilderness is through the intelligent selection of events, the anti-nature of artificiality. We learn how nature works so we can supplant it with a world we create, injecting that higher, emergent world (civilization, culture, etc) with meaning and purpose, because the alternative (objective nature’s absurdity) is appalling.

Promethean enlightenment begins with that disgust for the given, “pristine” world, and I suspect spiritual leaders, from shamans to monks, have typically felt that disgust and been socially marginalized on that basis, since these insiders lump the atrocities of mainstream society in with the greater mindlessness.

We might be able to have a fruitful exchange of ideas on this topic. I like to post dialogues on my blog. If I have no interlocutor at the moment, I make up both sides and write them myself! (See, for example, my take below on an exchange between the Buddha and the Marquis de Sade.) Maybe we could each write, say, a 600 word opening statement on the nature of true enlightenment and go from there with a back-and-forth? You can reach me by email through the contact form on my blog (first link below).



Knowledge condemns. Art redeems. I learned that as an artistic writer who did a doctorate in philosophy. We should try to see the dark comedy in all things.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store