r m p

SERMON ARCHIVE

 

 

Third Eye In the Back of Your Head

 

Readings: Arthur Machen, "The Great God Pan", "God's in the Cranial Lobes"

 

It's pretty obvious that the revelation of modern brain science were already anticipate by Arthur Machen. But it goes back further than that. Here is a chart that maps out the Seven Chakras. What are they? Seven nodes of psychic power located up and down the spine according to ancient Hindu mysticism. Some scholars think the whole thing was originally just a meditative tool, like Biofeedback--simply a mental map of associations enabling the mind to have a script to follow, giving it a process whereby to process information, to manipulate its own body and its own mental circuitry.

Levi-Strauss shows, in his essay, "The Effectiveness of Symbols," that it doesn't much matter which symbols are used. The use of them (Freudian, Jungian, Buddhist, Amazonian Indian, whatever) spins the tumblers. Psychically, even physically sometimes, the safe opens. The ancient Hindu mystics may have understood this. There may have been an element of "as if" in their meditative work. 

Note that on the chart it becomes clear that the Gods who awaken in each chakra are somehow contained in that chakra, i.e., within the mediator himself. And the writers of the Tibetan Book of the Dead seemed aware of the same truth: when the deceased beholds the Peaceful and the Wrathful Deities on the intermediate plane, the texts reminds him that these great beings are but the projections of his own mind, figments of his own inmost self. I think this insight has great relevance for the tentative discovery of neuro-science. The discovery of brain nexes whose stimulation causes God-experiences seems to suggest that the God whom one meets in moments of Enlightenment is himself a function of the brain. A Deity in the Chakra. But is there a God outside the nexus? And does it matter? 

Is the parietal lobe, or the temporal lobe, a third eye (the name of the penultimate chakra)? Is it an organ for seeing some extra-mental reality, as in Machen's "The Great God Pan"? Is it the sixth sense given us for beholding God? When that eye is opened, have you passed from mere faith to sight? have you become no longer a mere believer, but a knower? A Gnostic? Jung said he didn't believe there was a God, he knew.  

But Tillich once said, "There is no truth without the way to truth. There is no depth without the way to depth." Elvis once asked a Yogi at an ashram to show him a short cut to Yogic Enlightenment. She said not even Elvis Presley could buy his way to Enlightenment; there is no shortcut.  

But isn't there? What about that helmet? It stimulates visions. It flips the switch of mystical ecstasy. Is that real? Or does this sort of thing short-circuit the process?  LSD experiments raised the same question. What is lost if one does not take the prescribed path of the ancients? Is it the gradual accumulation of wisdom? I think not. I think the ancient meditation techniques were clever techniques devised by introspective students of the brain, not unlike Kant in his examination of the phenomenology of judgment and perception. They had traced the labyrinthine path to the middle of the maze. They had deduced the schematic of the brain, demarcating a path which, if followed closely and patiently, would work like biofeedback techniques, to tap into the ecstasy lobe. 

It was never a matter of morality or of wisdom. This should be evident from the fact that this path to ecstasy propels one beyond the world, beyond good and evil. Who is as unworldly-wise as the mystic? I think of a great Theosophical novel by Talbot Mundy, called Old Ugly Face, in which a fat old corrupt lama turns out to be a living Buddha, a master of numinous gnosis, a guide to the perplexed. His rude manner, his imperious bearing, like that of the Zen master who insults and slaps and kicks, was discovered to be the arbitrariness of the Divine Imperative summoning Abraham to sacrifice Isaac, of Krishna who told his devotees to win by cheating. Who can call him to account?  

As Rudolf Otto saw, the Holy at first had nothing at all to do with righteousness. It had only to do with divine Otherness, which was terrifying and transformative. It was only much later logically and chronologically that theologians rationalized holiness into moral goodness. This was  a great gain and a great loss. Until this fusion, this confusion, it made no sense to call someone a religious hypocrite. There was no inconsistency between the one who worshipped devoutly and followed the liturgical instructions--and the one who killed and stole. 

This is how Krishna can say to Arjuna that the one devoted to him may even do much evil, and no bad karma will accrue. This is how the Nazis could participate in their own ultraviolet spirituality. This is how Charlie Manson and Jim Jones could be the Messiah. This is what Tillich called "demonic holiness." 

Learning wisdom is a different thing than religiosity. This is why Secular Humanism does not need religion in order to be moral. This is how religion can lead to terrorism without being hypocritical. This is why liberal religion turns to morality, redefines God as merely Mr. Do Be and the devil as Mr. Don't Be. Why modern religion seeks no religious experience. 

Stimulating the brain can never make you moral, as Clockwork Orange showed sufficiently. But apparently stimulating the brain can make you enlightened. You can be both, but they are not the same.  

But back to the question: does the temporal lobe, the parietal lobe, the cranial lobe, the third eye show you something outside the brain? Or only inside the brain? An ecstasy like sexual ecstasy that has no external reference, nor does it need one. I think it is the latter. And for this reason: once there was a guy named William of Occam. They called him the Slasher. It was this razor he used to carry. He cut down every superfluous explanation. When a simpler explanation of any phenomena would explain it satisfactorily, the Slasher wouldn't let you get away with a fancier one. If you could explain the channeler, the spirit, medium by ventriloquism, why assume you were really in touch with the beyond? And if some hunk of brain tissue causes you to lose the difference between your individuality and everything else, I'm not sure if you need Advaita philosophy anymore. You see, in a case like this, there's no difference between the medium and the message. That lobe isn't the means to an end. It isn't either a means to an end.  

But then what about the analogy with sex? That is a means to an end, right? Aristotle and the Pope are basically on track: Darwin gave you that erectile tissue so you would want to have sex and thus pass on your DNA. Does religious ecstasy have any evolutionary benefit? As Richard Dawkins said, it may be that ecstasy does have a benefit, but that we are simply jumping to a false conclusion by thinking it means we are in touch with some reality beyond the gilded cage of the mind.  

What is the benefit of religious experience if there is no inherent benefit in believing in Nondualist doctrines inferred from it? Or is it, as skeptics have always suspected, mental masturbation? I ask you. 

Robert M. Price

May 29, 1999  

 

 

Copyrightę2004 by Robert M Price
Spirit of Carolina Web Design