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Metatheology

Why I Distrust Disorganized Religion

I don’t trust disorganized religion.

Look at it closely and you’ll inevitably find some reactionary yahoo who figured out there is nothing to figure out and wants to sell you that information. There’s always a trail of disciples, synchronizing their idiosyncrasies so they all think the same though none think they do, flaunting their individuality instead of just being, or using head knowledge as a flotation device instead of drowning in the Divine. Nothing reeks of passive-aggressive order like deliberate chaos.

“There is only one way to the perfection I envision for you,” the master says, “and that is your own. Make it up as you go, and here’s exactly what will happen. Come as you are, as I want you to be.”

Spontaneity is neither organized nor disorganized –it toys with both. It just is. It does without doing. There is no greater peace than surrendering your need to be peaceful, no greater joy than forgetting about your own enjoyment, and simply being.

Then again, good luck being spontaneous on purpose!

Are you getting it?

You can’t buy a ticket for a short, straight ride on a path that is long and windy and leads back to where it started. The traps and false leads of the spiritual life were placed there on purpose –it is the only way to distract the person who believes in linear progress from the fact that his pilgrimage is a circle.

Don’t follow any teacher who claims to succeed where others failed. Run from any guru who tells you she is enlightened.

Success in the spiritual life is the ultimate mirage. Whatever your chosen adversary is, it wins by making you feel as though you won, and the disorganized teacher knows no better; the huckster guru is only too happy to oblige for a fee. Pay them no mind. 

Religion is a program of systematic futility, one level of failure to achieve after another, until it breaks you of the achievement habit.

This is the opposite of, say, landing a spacecraft on Mars or building the perfect nuclear warhead. It takes an entirely different skill set to slap yourself in the face so hard that you lay down your arms and rest.

Precision is the essence of scientific knowledge. The essence of spiritual wisdom? Targetlessness. Go ahead, try to succeed at that.

If you still have a goal in mind, try harder to lose it. Eat yourself whole, in the spirit of Ouroboros. Dick around with that for a few lifetimes until you get nowhere. The religious life is not about solving a great puzzle –it is the act of working on a puzzle with no solution.

But if you don’t do the work, your existence stays in line; you get closer to death as you age instead of closer to Life.

So then, what should we do? Organize! Disorganize! Be spontaneous on purpose! Be yourself, just like everyone else. Die unto yourself so you can be a better person. End world hunger. Make everyone vegan. Liberate all sentient beings. Love your enemies. Love others as God loves them. Walk like a camel through the eye of a needle. Submit your every act to the will of someone who is silent and invisible. Clap with one hand. Fuck up and fail over and over and over and over and over until you do one of two things: quit trying, or quit being that which tries.

If you choose the former, it is for the best. You are probably neurotic, and religion would break you, but not in a good way. Find a hobby.

If you choose the latter, congratulations –you have succeeded in a way that no success could prepare you to do.

Revised 7.31.17

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Discussion

5 thoughts on “Why I Distrust Disorganized Religion

  1. I don’t trust Religion, except that I trust Religion to keep being Religion.

    Posted by Mark | July 13, 2017, 10:27 pm
    • Organized or not.

      Posted by Mark | July 13, 2017, 10:27 pm
    • I feel the reasons not to trust organized religion are obvious and well-documented by history, so I wanted to add this for balance. In writing it, though, I was reminded of the core motivations that got me wrapped up in this racket, summed up in the line about getting closer to Life rather than death, which was actually the last line I inserted into this before publishing. We tend to see a single lifetime as making linear progress toward death, and the one absolutely vital contribution that religion makes to human existence (though the vast majority of adherents manage to miss it) is the chance to see through allegory that the “progress” is cyclical and the journey brings us in some form back to Life as a whole. Now there are many ways to interpret and express that, and its asinine to think there is only one right way, in the manner that there is only one right answer to 2+2 or the atomic weight of cadmium. That’s why the piece ends up making a very similar point to what’s all over this site: Dig in to this stuff! There is much richness to be found in the spiritual life, both organized and disorganized. Do these impossible things it compels you to do. Just don’t go in expecting it to be anything like history or mathematics or the physical sciences. Jungian psychology is probably the closest analogy there is in the academic world, though I don’t think that being a well-adjusted “normal” person is necessarily the goal. Unless you feel called to be like, Mormon or something, in which case you’d have my condolences.

      Posted by Waldo Noesta | July 14, 2017, 6:57 am
  2. I think you’re on to something here, Waldo.
    The mystic sees the universe as analogous to an amorphous block of clay, or spirit. It can be used to fashion something beautiful, but it can also be used to create something ugly or hideous. Everything is a manifestation of this material/spiritual stuff: nice people, bad people, beautiful sunsets, and destructive disasters. The mystic sees this creative stuff of the universe as not having intrinsically dualistic qualities of good or bad, but rather the non-dualistic “One Mind,” or pregnant void that permeates the entirety of the universe, both manifest and unmanifest.

    Atheists have no God. Monotheists have one personal God. Mystics have only God. But most people are not mystics. What they have is religion, which, as the Hindu mystic, Ramakrishna, said, “Religion is like a goat.
    It kicks, but it gives milk too.” In other words, there is a dark side and a bright side to the Wisdom Traditions. They give a sense of orientation, direction and bearings in life because life comes at you point-blank when a child dies in your arms, you lose your job, or you contract a fatal disease. The universe is ambiguous and to most of us it comes in both moods, the black and the light.

    I remember Alan Watts saying somewhere, I think it was a book title, “Is It Serious?” He goes on to say that for most of us it is very serious indeed because suffering and mortality are part of it. But then, in a Zen-like bursting of the bubble, he basically slaps you upside the head, and says in effect what you said, “This Is It. Wake Up! You’re It!”

    Posted by Tom Bennett | July 15, 2017, 10:12 am
    • If organized religion doesn’t drive you crazy with its ignorance, ineptitude, corruption, rigidity, and the tantalizing sense that they have a trick or two hidden up their sleeve, you aren’t paying close enough attention. Or you are, and you’re taking them too seriously. Either way, you may need to find your own catalyst. Nationalism? Politics? Good luck finding the transcendent element in those kinds of crazies.

      Posted by Waldo Noesta | July 18, 2017, 2:45 pm

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