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