NOTE TO THE READER: As you progress through this article, keep in mind that I feel there is a gross difference between religion, which I feel comes from without, and spirituality, which comes from within.
The Chinese classic, The Tao Teh Ching, attributed to Lao Tzu says, “The names that can be named are not the eternal names.” This means things are not what we think they are. All of the things in the cosmos that we can perceive with our senses (including our minds, which are sense-organs as well as information-processing-organs), are-in a very real sense-products of the mind’s perceptions, insofar as how we see and understand them.
In reality, all things are very different from our perceptions of them, depending on environmental conditions, our viewpoints, our beliefs, and depending on the accuracy with which we perceive them. In fact, the tree we see as a tree, in some ways, is not “a tree” but another composition that is borrowing and giving to the universe, with all of its components in constant flux. The same is true of you and me, and everything natural.
It is my firm belief, that of all things, the mind is the most important, the most wonderful, and the most dangerous entity known to us. Of course the mind cannot exist without the body, just as the buds on the branches of a tree cannot exist without the trunk, and the whole tree cannot exist without the soil of the earth, the air of the earth, and the water of the earth that falls from the clouds, which comes from the oceans and rivers and lakes. None of these things are really independent of one another. Now that I have exhausted you in making clear that I understand this, I will return to the mind, and more of what I think of it.
I am reminded of the old American Negro College Fund slogan, “A mind is a terrible thing to waste.” So, do I feel, is a person, for a person “houses” a human mind, the greatest thinking organ of any sentient species we know of in all of the life we have come across. This mind is also matched with the most capable of biologies of all species we know of, as well. This is why I am against all forms of war, execution, and limits on the freedoms of human beings (as long as those freedoms do not curtail the freedoms of other human beings). Human beings are, thusfar discovered, the greatest creatures of the universe. Therefore, we should respect one another, every one of us; each human life, as if we are sacred.
But while I agree in wasting no minds, I must add that a mind ‘wasted’ is-albeit sad as it may be-better off than a mind corrupted, polluted, or made insane,which is what many aspects of our human societies do.
Religion-which is not necessarily what happens in churches, temples, mosques and synagogues-is the body of practices and beliefs we hold, as Dr. M. Scott Peck points out. And by the way, keep in mind that often, what we profess to believe has been forced on us before “the age of reason” -as Christopher Hitchens calls the time of our mental and intellectual maturation. And he also makes this point.
As religion often-if not always-deals with the supernatural and non-rational, and as it has driven peoples to exterminate one another and tens of thousands of other species, it is chief among the aspects of society’s dangers to itself, and obviously, to the mind. This is evident whether a religion is theistic, polytheistic, atheistic, scientific, nationalistic, animistic, or whatever.
Religion is often fixed and dogmatic, limiting the human mind, and thus its ability to reason and therefore it limits the freedom of human beings. Fixed, dogmatic, non-rational-thinking is the greatest danger to humanity, because the point of human gowth (if there is one), in my view, since we are self-aware and highly intelligent, is constant mental (intellectual and “spiritual) and societal evolution. Insofar as religion is fixed and dogmatic, it blocks this destiny of humanity; to constantly evolve.
We are, and we do…what we “believe”, and we become it. We are destroying ourselves and believe in it. Humans, especially religious ones, ‘believe’ in destroying the environment they subsist from, one another, and themselves, otherwise, we wouldn’t be doing it. I put the word believe in quotes because none of us would profess to want to destroy the environment, or our neighbors, or ourselves. But we are doing it, through greed, arrogance, lazines, ignorance, and the fog of our beliefs that stem from religion, not reason. Yes, the fog of our “beliefs”; religion. We have an overly confident belief in ourselves that doesn’t match reality, or reason, and it comes from religion.
It stems from what I call, supernaturalism; the idea that a supernatural being has chosen us. This is, non-rationalism, and we inculcate it and enforce it to comfort ourselves, with dogmatism. If you don’t believe this, look at what has been happening politically, religiously, and environmentally since man started forming tribes, kingdoms, nations, and other alliances; all is at odds, where our total survival, total world peace, and our harmony with the environment is concerned, because a good lot of us-in and out of power (and all of us from westernized democracies are in power, to some extent or other more than those who have not been raised in westernized democracies [multi-cultural democratic republics]) base our decisions on life and death issues not on common sense and compassion, but based on this almost pathological ideas that because God loves us, we can do anything we want and ask for forgiveness, and because the religions have extreme cases of violence in them, perpetrated by God.
We believe and act non-rationally; unintelligently, and finally-as a result…stupidly and non-compassiontely, according to greed based on the idea of provenance; that God is with us, and against what the more loving aspects of our religious doctrines tell us to do, which is to love them. This will, eventually, be the end of humankind, and many (if not all species on this planet (if an Apollo object, stellar radiation burst, or ice age doesn’t end us first). But, alas, the religious don’t mind. In fact, many of them want “the end”.
I once tried to tell some evangelists in the street, that running a TV on a diesel generator for the purposes of drumming up business for their church was vastly irresponsible, considering global climate change (not to mention the ridiculously choking pollution levels that make breathing in Seoul difficult). One of them gingerly responded, “Oh, you don’t have to worry about that. Jesus will save us from the environment.” Well, then what is he waiting for? It’s being destroyed, before our closed eyes. Whether he does or doesn’t, I have to ask, who, will save our childrens’ future and this species from such ignorance, medieval lunacy, and maniacal and immoral thinking?
At Cradle of The Universe (http://carlatteniese.com), I present my poems, my memoir of my life in Asia, my book about love and culture, my photography, and my drawing, in celebration of the human mind and the hope of humanity, which is art. It is through art that we examine ourselves, express what we have found, and thus may save ourselves and other forms of life through honest contemplation and change.
Please feel free to contact me, and kindly allow me to suggest that you live life to the fullest, morally, and responsibly, expressing yourself, thinking for yourself, and allowing and inspiring others (especially women and children) to do the same. I also encourage you to love someone.
To the extent that you are mentally and physically healthy and free, you are the conscience and the consciousness of the universe. You are acutally the universe incarnate. ‘You’ could have been “born” into a tree, a rodent, or a slug, without such abilities as I mentioned above, but you are the proud owner of the greatest flowering the universe took billions of years to produce, and the biology to match its powers; its own consciousness; one of it’s ‘cradles’ of perception and expression-a human mind and body! Congratulations!